Getting Elemental: An Ode to H2O

Submitted by Sudhir Kade on Sat, 03/22/2008 - 16:36.

Today, March 22nd, is World Water Day and while most people don't know this, I thought I'd take the time to give H2O its just due.  Sometimes it helps to bring things down to the elemental level - as NEO residents so many of us take the 6 quadrillion gallons of fresh water that comprise our Great Lakes for granted.  Few people seem to be aware that lake water levels are at historic lows, or what a rapidly dwindling freshwater supply globally has been doing to extinction rates of dependent species of wildlife.  The formula is simple: freshwater use is exponentially increasing while supply is most definitely not.  We use over twenty times more water per person in the U.S. than we did a century ago, and the energy costs involved with agriculture, waste water treatment, and industrial use are growing at staggering rates as well.  I find it ironic that the most highly developed nations in the world are setting this kind of example.  The problem is exacerbated in the most underprivileged parts of the world, which, not coincidentally, face the greatest dearth in freshwater supply.  Primitive technologies and grossly inappropriate waste management and disposal practices (95% of sewage and 75% of industrial waste is returned to surface waters untreated) are the biggest problems in these nations.  Global climate change throws even more uncertainty into the mix.

For all our intellectual prowess and ingenuity as a species I am bewildered by our relative ineptitude when it comes to the concept of self-preservation - the combination of ingnorance and apathy on a global scale has been the bane of sustainability advocates everywhere.  Must we always wait until its too late to do the most good?  The more distressing fact is that we are unable to truly hold ourselves accountable to the important conservation measures we do plan to execute.  Take, for example, the core United Nations Millenium Goal to halve the population with inadquate freshwater supply by 2015.  At current prevailing rates we are still sixty years behind schedule.  As with so many other UN activities the political clout to enforce and implement such measures is all but absent.  One in six people in the world still lacks access to an improved water supply and 2.6 billion people globally lack adequate sanitation.  Every 15 seconds a child dies from water-related disease.

Yet rather than focus on the problems its best, I think to look at the most promising solutions on a global level.  Developed countries need to lead by example and create opportunities for those less fortunate elsewhere.  If there were an immediate first step to consider in more developed countries, it would be to cease poisoning the existing supply with an incessant introduction of new chemicals through fertilizers and industry.  Agriculture alone is responsible for 70% of the water pollution problem.  It would behoove the agriculture industry to think more proactively with organic fertilizer alternatives and less destructive methods. Industry could also benefit from a more socially responsible perspective that mandates water-conserving product design.  Legislation could certainly mandate appropriate sanctions for violations on both the industrial and human levels.  And a better job could certainly be done in raising awareness about the problems as well as polarizing actions to resolve these.  Realizing business opportunities at so-called 'Bottom of Pyramid' strategies can create profitable ventures that do a world of good, primarily through innovative designs that enable shift to volume-based models.  Consider the impact, for example,  that could be had by a radically-cheaper point-of-delivery water filtration product that could be affordably acquired by the billions lacking such technology today. 

As with so many other solutions, technology is the wild card that offers great hope.  Information and awareness-raising through online activist communities like REALNEO can help play a vital role on the information end - perhaps we can help trigger a global 'domino effect' through blogspace discourse.   Technological engineering and innovation is already being employed on a large scale in countries like Saudi Arabia (a global leader) with desalinization techniques that are helping to offset freshwater loss.  Desalinization and distillation processes are becoming more efficient but still create secondary problems with energy costs and the disposal of waste by-products generated. Ultimately, I feel human behavior has to come in line with the realities of the situation to really drive success.

There are so many interesting discussions to be had around this issue - and so many regionally relevant ones at that, with one-fifth of the global freshwater supply on our doorstep.  Let's propel some dialogue toward meaningful action.  Unappetizing as it may seem, I propose one radical sewage solution here.  What are your thoughts or ideas?

And a Happy World Water Day to all - perhaps we can use this occasion as a launching point toward significant new progress.  Should we not pay any mind the results could be disasterous.  Some have predicted that wars will be fought over this precious commodity in the near future.  Let's do something now to mitigate that possibility!

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thanks Sudhir; I almost forgot

We celebrated World Water Day 2007 here at realneo, too. What a wonderful substance clean water is! How wonderful is a tub of really hot water? How refreshing is a long drink from a clear mountain stream?

Here are a couple of water related ideas that I wanted to revist in response to your post.

Of these designs featured in Cooper Hewitt's Design for the Other 90% I love the Bamboo Treadle Pump.

And nearer to us, I have to applaud Toronto for their water efficiency plan and education efforts. Go Toronto!

Toronto's tap water places third in blind taste test. So the next time somebody from New York tells you how awesome it is there, you can say "well, sure, but our water is delicious."

Now that just makes me want to go to Toronto and taste their water!

Then there's this great ad from Denver:

Of course, there is plenty of good stuff to learn about at with water in the search box.

Who needs clean water?

Bush and his cronies would have us drink his own kool-aid mix.  So, people--keep believing the message of hate and drink the kool-aid. 

We don't need clean air, water and food to survive, because GOD is on our side!

EPA funding fight looms. (cover story)
Geiselman, Bruce bgeiselman [at] crain [dot] com
Waste News; 3/3/2008, Vol. 13 Issue 22, p1-37, 2p, 1c
Document Type:
Full Text Word Count:
Accession Number:
Business Source Premier

EPA funding fight looms

It appears President Bush's proposed 2009 EPA budget will face tough challenges in the Senate, as Democrats and Republicans alike criticized it Feb. 27 during an Environment Committee hearing with agency Administrator Stephen Johnson.

One issue that united both parties was anger over the administration's proposal to cut $134.1 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which loans money to communities to upgrade their wastewater systems.

Barbara Boxer's response to Bush's EPA cuts

Opening Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer: EPA Budget Hearing

Does George Bush suffer from lead poisoning or what? It must be that the lobbyists are suffering from lead poisoning, too. This is outright stupidity and disregard for not only the American people, but for the world. It is laughable to hear him talking these days about reducing greenhouse gasses. Did he finally read the memo on climate change? Maybe all along we just needed to get him some reading glasses or a radio so he could learn along with the rest of us.

That's what happens when we allow someone with a brain the size of a pea into a leadership position. 10 more months of "the decider". We're all counting down and counting down thankfully. Now our eyes are on the prize of fresh thinking in the Whitehouse - that'd be Barack Obama from my perspective.

He saw the video...

I believe it is called Inconvenient Truth. Actually, it just took Bush's industry buddies (bunch of them right here in NEO) this long to get positioned to profit from global warming... now the legislation can be passed to transfer more wealth to the energy industry, to reengineer itself... it takes time to turn a big ship, called the Titanic, by rearranging deck chairs. How does that help a ship change course, anyways? Boom. Crash. Help. Glug, glug, glug.

Disrupt IT

Colbert on World Water Day

Stephen Colbert takes a look at World Water Day

grap a glass of tap water while the obligatroy opening commercial plays...

His own bottled water too closely resmble what is served up at meetings everywhere including at Congressional water wars hearing about the Tri-State drought and water issues.

No watered down insights here!

Great thoughts and input, Laura, Susan, and Norm.  I spent the last couple of days surfing and reflecting on these water issues and its really bewildering how many different resources exist, with so much valuable information - yet how much real progress is still lacking. It really seems to be a situation very similar to the 'out of sight, out of mind' concept that seems to hinder the global starvation problem as well.

We all cannot be saints, I suppose, but we can at least research opportunities to serve, even short term, on the front lines - I am considering some overseas volunteer consulting efforts with MBAs Without Borders currently.  Yet even if we don't battle global issues elsewhere, we can certainly combat them locally during our everyday lives.  To that end, here are some simple water conservation strategies we can fight this battle with at home.


This link also gives those who haven't seen it, a nice connection to Yahoo! Green - an impressive effort by a socially conscious search engine to raise eco-awareness in accelerated fashion.  I love how Yahoo! periodically rotates key information from this 'eco-portal' onto its main page to help boost outcomes. 


I need a fix

  'cause [we] are all going down.  

OR Imagine?

Which do you prefer?

Thanks to a "crazy" artist named John Lennon...