A New Perception of Water
Water is necessary for life. It has been said that a human can go weeks without food, days without water and minutes without oxygen before there is death. I have written here before about water and the need to look more closely at how we use it. The two prior blog posts about water were triggered by the prolonged drought in the Southwestern United States and the fact that what was thought of as a temporary drought is now thought to be the new normal.
There is now severe drought across not only the Southwest, but also the Southeastern U.S. and across northern Minnesota. Lake Okeechobee in Florida, the second largest body of fresh water in the country is in danger of ceasing to be a lake in the years ahead. In fact, part of what used to be the lake was subject to a large brush fire in May. There are now states that are almost entirely enduring drought conditions. Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Utah are all at 98-100% at drought level. In Florida, officials said that it would take 50 inches of rain to begin to restore Lake Okeechobee.
Global warming is educating all of us to the reality that we are damaging the planet. It is also deepening our understanding of the critical need to accelerate conservation and recycling efforts as they are the single greatest immediate effort we can bring to fight climate change. We must now start to look at the way we use water, treat water and even think of water. We think of it as always available for whatever we want to do with it. Wash the car and our other shiny metal objects, water our vast lawns, let the water run as we brush or teeth or shave are all things that we do. Why, because water is an unlimited resource â€” or so we thought.
I know that there are days when a news story about drought and forest fires in the West is followed by another story about flooding in the Midwest. A story of scarcity is followed by a story of plenty. It must be pointed out that the areas currently under drought conditions are vastly greater than the much more limited areas of flooding. Regions and states compared to towns or valleys.
We must begin to think of water as precious. We must begin to differentiate between types of water use. While we want fresh water for our baths and showers, we can certainly recycle that water to flush our toilets or wash our cars. There is a very small but very committed movement to do just that, to build home recycling systems so that water is reused at least once. A problem is that many municipalities have building codes that prevent such plumbing, so these forward thinking people are showing us our future at the same time they are breaking the law.
This movement is called Grey Water. It is described here in wikipedia. There are a number of web sites, here is one from Oasis Design. Of course at the present time, the larger cultural perception of this movement is somewhat â€˜crunchyâ€™ as was the view of environmentalists in the early 1970s. Look how right they turned out to be. The grey water movement is the early stage effort of what will eventually be a much larger change in water usage by humanity in the coming decades. While I do not think humanity will ever need to resort to â€œDuneâ€ type recapturing of water ( for those of you that are science fiction readers), we will look back on our current water usage behavior as incredibly wasteful.
One of the first water uses that states and municipalities restrict when there is a drought is the watering of lawns. I submit that the all American lawn that is the envy of the neighbors is anachronistic and will increasingly become looked upon as just plain stupid. A â€˜perfectâ€™ lawn is one of the least efficient uses of water in landscaping. I predict that in ten years, there will be little social acceptance of the lawn as we know it. Is the life of a lawn more important than the life of a human, a pet or indigenous wildlife?
We need to start thinking much more intelligently about water usage, water transport and water recycling. If we do, there should always be enough water for us all.