Ideas about our water emergency from different perspectives
I was at a dinner party last week and a friend – an intelligent, creative, and in many ways like-minded friend – said point blank that there’s no problem with water in the Midwest. Water conservation was a California issue, she said. She and her boyfriend had just returned from a trip which included visits to several middle American states, including a stay in one of Dallas’ many mini-mansions. We were talking about those houses and what it takes to run a big home and that’s how the issue of water came up. I didn’t mean to bang my drum or be a ‘one note samba,’ but I found it kind of maddening that the world wide water crisis isn’t common knowledge. Not even a country-wide water crisis.
To me, everyone should know that it takes approximately 22 gallons of water to grow a tomato and approximately eight pounds of tomatoes per ketchup bottle and connect that to how much extra they skirt on their fries. Everyone should be amped up to conserve water – its cool, not lame. At least that’s what I think.
I couldn’t believe that people in my circle thought California was on an island in terms of water conservation concerns. Not so. It’s more urgent here in California, where our two largest populated areas are basically built on arid desert land, but it is not only urgent here. We can’t live in a bubble thinking that the dams we built in the first half of the last century will provide for us forever. They won’t.
The thing that strikes me about the Midwest is that water shortages and resource management get muddled up with droughts. You can say that since this past winter Texas is no longer in a drought, as it was for most of 2010 and 2011. Drought is due to changing rain patterns, which to the best of my knowledge are not going to normalize any time soon. The droughts gave Dallas, the state’s biggest water user, impetus to maintain water restrictions it created during those hard months. But droughts are not the sole cause of the greater issue at hand – water shortage. Water shortage has little to do with rain, it has to do with how much fresh water we use and how much there is on the planet to use. As I’ve mentioned before, desalinizing water is an extremely energy-hungry project, and aquifers dry up, mountain snow packs melt and if they is not replaced each year with new snow (due to changing rain patterns and increasing temperatures), river flow won’t fill lakes and reservoirs and water shortages will ensue. Just because Texas is not in a drought does not mean it is not a place where water conservation is relevant. There’s even a group called Texas Water Matters with up to date info.
I want to know more about the country-wide dilemma and I sincerely hope that no one considers water a resource we can take for granted, water conservation may be the world’s single most important issue for the future, and it is certainly an issue that effects everyone.
I know this is only a blog, a rather pitiful means of activism because it is not based on deep underlying connections but anonymous ones. I just want to get the story straight. I want to know what the story is. I want to put a microphone on those important and useful pieces of information and share ideas.
I’m going to nicely, very nicely, chat with this friend and show her the blog and see what comes of it. It’s worth a try. I think she loves me enough to forgive the nudge. It takes balls and the willingness to get into tough discussions with friends to move ideas forward. I have never considered myself an activist, or one to join in protest, but once I learned about water I couldn’t be ignorant anymore. And I didn’t want people to be ignorant about water either. I just read this Malcolm Gladwell story (I read hand-me-down New Yorker issues late – this story is from 2010) that really struck a chord with me. Maybe more for another post. Here’s the article, though.