Can We End the Global Water Crisis?

In this video, Jay Famiglietti from the University of California at Irvine discusses the realities of the global water crisis, the fact that we cannot put an end to it and the steps we can take to manage our way through it.

For me, the key quote from his talk was:

We must raise awareness of critical water issues to the level of everyday understanding.

I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, and this is why this blog exists. Yes, these are complicated, technical, political and economic issues, and we can’t all be experts. But we can all have a solid understanding of how critical water is to our lives and an overall idea of the challenges we face.

And just in case you can’t watch, the blog post from the speaker gives a great overview of the talk.

Stay engaged.

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Principles for an Energy Water Future

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has drafted Principles for an Energy Water Future that they encourage government, utilities, private companies and ratepayers (i.e. you and me) to consider and incorporate into our work.

The document itself is only two pages long so I highly recommend you give it a read, and here are the principles in summary:

Efficiency in the use of energy and water should form the foundation of how we develop, distribute, recover, and use energy and water.

The exploration, production, transmission and use of energy should have the smallest impact on water resources as possible, in terms of water quality and water quantity.

The pumping, treating, distribution, use, collection, reuse and ultimate disposal of water should have the smallest impact on energy resources as possible.

Wastewater treatment facilities, which treat human and animal waste, should be viewed as renewable resource recovery facilities that produce clean water, recover energy and generate nutrients.

The water and energy sectors – governments, utilities, manufacturers, and consumers – should move toward integrated energy and water management from source, production and generation to end user.

Maximize comprehensive, societal benefits.

What do you think about these principles? Are they reasonable? Achievable? Sensible? Looking forward to hearing what you think.

Stay engaged.

Posted in Energy Water Nexus, Water Energy Nexus, Water Literacy | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What is nature worth?

This is a thought-provoking video from the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota. The video contains great visuals illustrating the current condition of the environment and asks us to consider what nature is worth to us. Not just the products that we first think about when we think about nature, but the services it provides us with as well, e.g. water purification by wetlands. These services should be factored into any economic calculations we make when deciding how to manage resources.

For more of their fantastic work, please check out IonE at: http://environment.umn.edu/ and to learn more about the work on valuing the services that nature provides, please visit naturalcapitalproject.org

Stay engaged.

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Issue, Water Literacy | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

2012 Global Water Security Report

First off, this report came out in February 2012. So in other words, it is not breaking news, at least not time-wise. But I think that it is breaking news when you consider that it outlines what the U.S. intelligence community thinks about global water issues. It’s also interesting to note that you have to do a little digging to actually find a link to the full report. This link should take you right to the PDF. There’s also a press release that can be found here, that summarizes the report fairly well:

During the next 10 years, many regions will experience water challenges – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will increase the risk of instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important U.S. policy objectives. Between now and 2040, fresh water availability will not keep up with demand absent more effective management of water resources. Water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, posing a risk to global food markets and hobbling economic growth. As a result of demographic and economic development pressures, North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia will face major challenges coping with water problems.

Is anyone else a little overwhelmed after reading just that short synopsis? Forewarned is forearmed though, so I think it’s better for us to enter the next few decades aware of the global water security challenges we face.  And yes, the report is primarily concerned with how these issues will impact U.S. policies, not necessarily the issues themselves, but that’s what it is.

Also of interest is the fact that the primary response to the report, as far as I can tell, was the establishment of the U.S. Water Partnership:

Announced in March 2012 by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. Water Partnership (USWP) unites and mobilizes U.S. expertise, resources and ingenuity to address water challenges around the globe, particularly in the developing world. A joint effort of both public and private sectors in the U.S., the partnership is supported by government agencies, academic organizations, water coalitions, NGOs and the private sector.

They’ve been a little slow getting off the ground, but promise the development of a web portal, reference service and information platform in 2013 that will synthesize a wealth of U.S. data and expertise. If this platform is actually published, it will be a valuable tool for those working on improving global water security. I’ll be sure to keep you informed if there are any updates.

Stay engaged.

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Is it really possible to waste water?

We’ve all heard the admonishment to conserve water. Turn off the tap while soaping up dishes or brushing your teeth, etc, etc.

But I think we need to reconsider the way we discuss water conservation. It’s not so much that we’re wasting water. I mean, is it possible to waste something that cannot be created or destroyed in any significant quantities? (We’ve discussed this before, remember my reference to us all drinking dinosaur pee?)

It’s the fact that we’re dirtying water that it takes a lot of energy to clean. Letting the pipe run when you brush your teeth, means that drinkable water is flowing down the drain to join sewage. It’s like pouring glasses of water down the toilet for no reason. It all ends up in the same place.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to spend a ton of energy (which itself uses up water) to clean up our water supply and then dirty that same water without even using it.

So basically, we’re not conserving water, we’re conserving clean, drinkable water as well as energy. We have a lot of water challenges to overcome and I think the first step is to start talking about these issues intelligently and rationally. The goal is not for us to all run around like Chicken Little talking about water wars and water scarcity as a way to get people’s attention. The goal should be to make sure that we’re all knowledgeable about the most important substance on our planet – water. We can then take that information and use it in the way that makes the most sense to us, knowing that we’re starting from a place of water literacy and environmental intelligence.

Stay engaged.

Posted in Water Energy Nexus, Water Literacy | Tagged , | 2 Comments

From PBS: A Journey to Confront Our Aging Water Systems

I came across this video while catching up on email and wanted to share it here because it ties directly into the main goal of this blog: improving water literacy.

PBS described the video perfectly so I won’t try to outdo them: “As clean water regulations become tougher and sewer systems and water treatment plants become outdated, cities are struggling to stay compliant and safe. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien goes underground to discover the many ways America’s sewer systems could be revamped to conserve water and save money.”

Here’s the link to the video. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Stay engaged.

Posted in Water Literacy | Tagged , | 4 Comments

New Job!

Note: This post is from September 4th, but didn’t get posted until today November 19th…oops!

Greetings from Ann Arbor, MI!

I’ve just started a new job as Program Coordinator for Outreach and Communications at the the Great Lakes Observing System.

The past few month have been full of interviews, and apartment hunting, and moving, so thank you for your patience with the long break since my last post.

Today is literally my first day, so I’m on a steep learning-curve figuring out my strategic priorities, as well as how to get the phone to work.

I look forward to giving you a more detailed update after I’ve settled in a bit more.

Posted in Water Literacy | 1 Comment