Posts Tagged ‘water’

Not easy being green: Water

bptwilightv1

Blue Plains water treatment facility at twilight.

Wednesday April 22 is Earth Day, so let’s talk green this week.   Today’s topic:  Water

Those of us blessed with municipal water systems have been somewhat insulated from the massive water issues that many predict will dominate the next century.   Most people still believe that clean water is cheap and reliable — that water will come down from the sky, be filtered through the ground and return as it always has to provide fresh water to my kitchen sink.

But that’s less and less true.  As population and industry have grown, water moves through the system differently and “fresh water” is less fresh.  In our overbuilt environment, the water we pull out of the Potomac doesn’t flow back as it used to.  Treatment plants adds all sorts of things to the water to minimize health risks, but also to minimize risks to infrastructure (ie, lead leaching or other pipe corrosion).  And treatment doesn’t take out all sorts of other things, like anti-cholesterol or birth control drugs. And don’t even get me started on the vulnerabilities of aging SCADA systems.

The real point is that moving water around, even when it’s clean, costs energy.  Our water treatment and distribution systems are aging and not adequately funded as populations have grown; and many small municipalities have privatized their water systems, meaning that people are going to start paying the real cost of water, both here in the city and in the extended suburbs.  And we use a LOT of water.

Awareness is growing, but it will be a few years before we really start seeing the impact.  In the meantime, there are lots of ways to use less water.

Still to come: Earth, Air, and Fire.

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