Saturday, May 03, 2008

...and not a drop to drink

California is facing another drought. It's not that surprising given that California is basically semiarid (the north coast gets more, and other areas get less) and has a large population and lots of agriculture. One bad precip year isn't generally a problem, but this is our second. Rainfall is only part of the equation, as we mostly rely on the melting snowpack to carry us through the summer and fall. We had a relatively warm, dry spring, so the snowpack is 1/3 below normal. So the various water districts are asking for voluntary cutbacks, and some (like our very own EBMUD) are considering mandatory rationing.

There's a nice write up over at TreeHugger with the unappetizing title, "How To Green Your Water" (better than some other colors, but...) We're already doing a lot of things on the lists (not eating meat is big), but that's not to say we couldn't do more. So I'm thinking again about some of the same water-saving ideas I was a while ago, namely a hot water recirc pump, and rain barrels or maybe even a cistern.

One big thing almost all of you can do is give up bottled water. Not only does it take a lot of water to make a plastic bottle, it takes a lot of energy and petroleum products to make it, transport it, and then (at best) recycle the bottle. Chances are you've already got better water coming out of the tap that costs a lot less. A reusable water bottle (avoiding hard plastic bottles with BPA, of course) is a much better idea in the long run. At Google, every Noogler (new Googler) gets a spiffy Google-labeled water bottle. Besides plug-in hybrids that employees can borrow and investing in alternative energy, it sounds like Google is moving towards banning bottled water on their campuses.

Even if you live somewhere that's not facing another drought, consider this: 3/4ths of our lovely home planet is covered in water. However, only 2.5% of that is fresh water, and most of that is in the glaciers and polar ice caps. Even if you disagree about the origins of global warming or even that there is such a thing, you can't argue with the fact that glaciers are melting at record rates and the polar ice caps are shrinking. That means we need to use what fresh water we've got wisely, and work towards affordable desalination systems. Those of course take energy to run, and that's in short supply, too.

5 comments:

Sandy said...

Now I really feel guilty for drinking Ice Mountain... but I just can't stand the chlorine in the water... and even though we have a PUR filter, it just doesn't help. My husband drinks the filtered tap water, but I am the big sinner here. I thought I was doing great because I recycle, but I see now that I'm still not doing the earth any favors. Forgive me.

Gene said...

I can understand not wanting to drink water straight from the tap if it tastes funny. In Oakland, we're blessed with some of the best water in the country from EBMUD, both taste and content-wise, since it comes primarily from the Sierra Nevada. But over in Dublin where church is they've got wretched tasting tap water, so one guy I know has a reverse osmosis filter installed for their drinking water.

I'm surprised the PUR filter doesn't help with the chlorine taste, though. My parents and sister in downriver have filter pitchers like that, and the water tastes fine after that.

In any event, keep up with the recycling :-)

Sandy said...

:-)

Sandy said...

Well, Gene, at 16 years your senior... it just turned back the years! Thanks for stopping by my spot. I am so glad you enjoyed the post.

Gene said...

EBMUD instituted water rationing last week. A key point for us in the press release is: "Customers who use small amounts of water, less than 100 gallons a day, would be exempt from the 10 percent volume increase and the surcharge."
That would include us...I checked the last water bill (through the middle of March) and we were using an average of 62 gallons per day. It doesn't mean we shouldn't try to conserve more, but there are limited returns to be had.