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We’ll Drink to That!

Nov 08, 2008
The Southeast is experiencing a profound and extended drought, and the situation is not likely to improve. With a growing population and the impact of global warming on communities and their rivers, policymakers need to get clever about assuring a supply of clean water to present and future generations. After all, they aren’t building any new rivers, and rainfall has become quite erratic around the world.

This is one area where conservation will play a key role. Hidden Reservoir: Why Water Efficiency is the Best Solution for the Southeast, by Jenny Hoffner, from American Rivers, argues that water efficiency, rather than more dams and other costly alternatives, can assure cost-effective water supply to the Southeast. Their nine-point efficiency plan is one that should be considered nationwide:

  • Stop leaks. Fourteen percent of total water use is lost every day through leaks.
  • Price water right. A fraction of a penny per gallon increase in price can yield a 15 percent drop in consumption. Charge more to those who use above-average amounts of water.
  • Meter all water use. We can’t charge for consumption if we don’t know how much is being consumed.
  • Retrofit old buildings. If all U.S. households had water-efficient appliances, enough water would be saved to supply all eight southeastern states with their entire water supply. Rebates, free audits, and, if necessary, mandates can speed the process along.
  • Landscape to minimize water waste. Homes in the Southeast consume 30 percent of their water outdoors watering lawns and plants. Tampa Bay has reduced outdoor water use by 25 percent and can show the way.
  • Increase public understanding. We know nothing about our water. Such ignorance is a luxury we can no longer afford.
  • Build smart for the future. Half the homes that will exist in 2030 have not yet been built. As they are, enact new provisions that will make better use of water, including “dual plumbing” that will promote use of varying qualities of available water. Why spend a lot of money purifying water for drinking if it is just going down the toilet?
  • Return water to the river. There is a sustainable level of withdrawal from rivers; exceed it and the life and health of the river is threatened. Some water efficiency savings should be given back.
  • Involve water users in decisionmaking. Working together is the best way to insure the development of fair and effective water policy.
Water is the elemental resource and no power on earth can create more of it than there is. Efficient use is the key to water sustainability. Lose the key, and you open the door to resource wars, dried-up riverbeds, and disease.
tags: Water

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