Update 2/4/14 - Fast on the heels of posting this yesterday I came across this article about a coal ash spill from a shuttered Duke Energy plant into the Dan River on Sunday. That hits very close to home.
Over at Head Butler there's an interview with one of the co-authors of Running Out of Water: The Looming Crisis and Solutions to Conserve Our Most Precious Resource and it's eye opening:
JK: As the book explains — with unusual restrain and modesty — you did. Now that you’re an expert witness, tell me: Which is the bigger crisis, oil or water?
SL: Water, definitely. When I talk to people, I start by saying, ‘You know, it’s the same water since the beginning of time.’ They ask: ‘What do you mean?’ I say: ‘We’re using the same water — just recycled. Water is finite. How we treat it affects the quality of all of our water in the future.’ And I go on to say: ‘There is no substitute for water. Solar or alternative energies might replace oil, but there’s no alternative to water.’ At which point, someone says: ‘Desalinization.’ I say: ‘Do you have any idea of the cost, the energy, the environmental impact?’ They say: “But Israel…’ I say: ‘Israel is a small country.’ And then they start to get it...
JK: Sounds almost like we’re going backwards.
SL: The basic problem: People get 30-year mortgages — but they don’t know if they’ll have water for 30 years. And they don’t think to ask. We’re on a collision course between the increasing demand of a growing population and a finite amount of water. To make matters more complicated, we pollute the water we have and then you can add climate change into the mix. We already see the effects of climate change in the West with decreased snowpack and water shortages. On the East coast, climate change means storm surges that overwhelm the aging waste water treatment plants...
JK: In some California counties, water companies are paying customers to remove their lawns. How about golf courses?
SL: Golf courses should be using recycled waste, and we’re seeing a trend toward that. A greater concern for me is how little individuals understand that they have a water footprint that is much larger than their daily household use. Most of us think we use 80-100 gallons a day. Wrong. Our water footprint is about 1,800 gallons a day. Like me. I love steak — and we need 630 gallons of water for one 8 ounce steak! But now that I know that, I am a much more conscious consumer of beef and other water-intensive foods. (Emphasis mine- JL)
I'm thinking about getting the Kindle version of the book, but part of me is resistant since I really have enough to worry about these days without adding water to the mix.