It’s hard to be too concerned about water when we gaze out at it all the time. But water is potentially a big issue for the island and until the ferry crisis pushed it aside it was a major topic of discussion. Of course, growth and development were what pushed water to the top of the topic list and now that the economy is in the crapper for the foreseeable future people are less concerned about water. However, water is a world-wide problem as the author of The Big Thirst points out in his recent book.
He provides interesting case studies from around the world: Las Vegas, an artificial city in the dessert which has actually decreased its use of water but totally depends on it for survival. Las Vegas is blessed with a water manager who is somewhat of a visionary and who has aggressively sought out new sources of water for Las Vegas while forcing reductions in consumption.
Conversely, Atlanta, which has been suffering a drought is literally clueless in its planning. Millions of people are at risk because of poor water planning.
In Australia, a multi-year drought has dried up rivers. One city went to war with each other over a plan to purify sewer water which is technically possible. But the plan failed due to the poor marketing of the idea. People didn’t wish to drink what was urine and feces. Interestingly, the amount of water on the planet never changes. It just becomes less available in certain places. And, it is possible to clean any water to the extent that it is simply and purely H20.
They do this at the IBM plant in Burlington, Vermont. They need perfectly pure water to use to clean the computer chips manufactured there. The water they produce is so pure that it would be toxic for humans to drink because water acts like a solvent and totally pure H2O will borrow essential minerals from the body as it makes its progress through the system.
In India, only a handful of cities have 24/7 water service. In a city such as New Delhi with twenty million people, at least eight million are carrying water every day either delivered through standpipes or by water truck. In more affluent neighborhoods water comes on for a couple hours a couple times a week. The wealthier people have pumps and storage tanks and the pumps go on and the storage tanks fill so they can have water on demand.
Around the world, water is essentially free. What people get charged for is delivery and prices, generally, are very cheap. In the USA we have bought into the fact that bottled water is better than tap water even though the two largest water bottlers simply run tap water through a reverse osmosis system. As a country we end up paying more per gallon for bottled water than we do for gasoline. But if a municipality tries to up the price of water to improve the infrastructure people complain loudly.
In most parts of the US the water infrastructure has been sadly neglected. Many residences don’t have meters. Much water is wasted. Americans spend $21 billion on bottled water and only $29 billion on our entire water infrastructure.
It’s possible that most islanders are more conservative with their water though I am aware of situations where there are people who water their lawns to the distress of their fellow water company members. A good number of us have wells and even though there is no monthly water bill there is a cost to having ones own private water system. This year, we had to have our cistern cleaned, floats replaced, well pump and pipes replaced. Not cheap but amortized over twenty years, not excessive.
A number of us have added rainwater catchment which is a growing trend around the world. It’s a shame to let all of that water run directly back into the Salish Sea.
We use much more water than we think we do. For example, the electricity we use at home on a daily basis requires 250 gallons of water to produce and the food for “a single day’s meals for a typical American require 450 gallons of water.”
At our house we are a constant argument over when it’s necessary to flush. I contend it’s a good place to start the discussion.
Pollution of the world’s water is a big problem as is the attempt to profit from water. Blue Gold a documentary that is very pertinent to this discussion. You can find the entire film on Youtube in six parts. Here’s part 1: