Waterblogged.info is slammed!

fandWWWhat does a water blog worthy of the name do when the editor-in-chief is slogging through the swamp of endless demands that constitutes an annoying yet relatively lucrative day gig? Why, said water blog links to a really great site like Food & Water Watch–and lets said really great site do the heavy lifting.

But Waterblogged.info, asks the intrigued reader, what is Food & Water Watch all about? Say, intrigued reader, isn’t that what About pages are for? So I don’t personally have to explain every little thing to you? I’m on deadline here.

I can say that, unlike the weepy whiners here at Waterblogged.info, the folks at F&WW are activists, and only to happy to help you be one, too.

Good stuff, with a pile of information about all sorts of water issues.

Water video madness

As Not Seen on TV: The Water Channel

As Not Seen on TV: The Water Channel

From Abigail Brown’s blog via Alternet, we give you The Water Channel, which boasts 200+ and counting films about water from around the globe. Says Abby:

Already today, I have been able to visit people and places in Yemen, India, Mexico, Niger, and Kenya to learn more about local and global water issues. How, you may ask? Easy, I reply — The Water Channel.

Easy, and fun! Well, as much fun as learning about global water problems and local solutions can be. We’ll let Abby bore you with the details about the Water Channel’s founders and mission. Do visit Abigail’s essential blog, Water for the Ages. And it’s difficult to exaggerate the importance of Alternet’s water coverage. So, because I’m late for work, I won’t try to exaggerate, I’ll just urge you to check it out for yourself.

Yet another Waterblogged.info desalination update!

Figure 2: Electricity consumption of various California water sources

Figure 2: Electricity consumption of various California water sources

As promised, yet more additions to our ever-growing compendium of desalination-related links, the entirety of which can be found on this page: Getting serious with Waterblogged.info: desalination. There you’ll find a madcap multimedia mashup of links to articles, papers, pdfs, videos, and audio on an often discussed but little understood topic.

Too many among us believe that desalination is the answer to current and future water shortage issues–an attitude which Waterblogged.info attributes to a blind faith in technology and a desire to get on with the day without having to think of anything depressing.

While we certainly want you to have a nice day, we also want to help spread the word that deploying desalination on the scale necessary to even partially mitigate our dwindling water resources is a tremendously complex, expensive, and environmentally risky undertaking.

Why take Waterblogged.info’s word for it? Check out a fantastic article (also listed in our resources below) by Debbie Cook, water and energy expert, and former mayor of Huntington Beach, CA. (The barely readable graph above that compares the energy requirements of desalination to other water sources is from the article–where it is legible.) She says: Turning ocean water into municipal drinking water:

. . .Sounds great until you zoom in on the environmental costs and energetic consequences. It may be technically feasible, but in the end it is unsustainable and will be just one more stranded asset.

Other Resources (full list here):

A February 2009 article about the current state of desalination in California. As of 2007, 20 water agencies have been considering and/or developing desalination options. The article is a good introduction to the arguments put forward by proponents and opponents of large-scale desalination plants. There is a bonus nifty diagram, complete with map of proposed California desal facilities.

A HowStuffWorks video,  a good basic introduction except that it never mentions the drawbacks to desalination and makes it all seem very simple. Interesting segment about the Santa Catalina island desal facility, which makes desalination appear to be nothing but an upgrade to paradise.

From Water-technology.net, “the website for the water and wastewater industry,” a comprehensive look at the (drum roll) Global Water Awards’ 2006 ‘Desalination Plant of the Year’ : the Ashkelon Desalination Plant in Israel. While  a PR piece created to get potential customers and investors all hot and bothered about desal’s potential, the article also reveals the mind-boggling technological complexity behind the dream of  desalination and drives home the fact that we’re talking about massive, power-hungry, environment-threatening, ugly-assed industrial complexes–and can thus be cited by opponents as arguments against themselves.

A Google video about the Ashkelon Desal Plant. An upbeat report with nary a negative word about industrial-scale desal plants. A highlight is a visitor to the facility,  the 88-year-old Sydney Loeb, who partnered with another student researcher in the 60’s to “perfect” the reverse osmosis process. I don’t know what “perfect” means in this context. If they’d perfected the process, it would be in wide-spread use by now.

Desalination: Energy Down the Drain. The title of this data- and link-rich article by Debbie Cook, former mayor of Huntington Beach, CA, kinda gives away her position on the topic. In 2003, she was invited to serve on the California Desalination Task Force, a legislatively mandated effort by the Department of Water Resources to study desalination facilities and “report on potential opportunities and impediments…” Her experience from then on turned her into a self-confessed water-obsessive, deeply concerned about the relationship between water and finite energy resources.  She’s unequivocal: “It is my knowledge of our energy and resource constraints that leads me to reject ocean desalination as the water of our future.” This is posted on The Oil Drum, the stated mission of which is “. . .to facilitate civil, evidence-based discussions about energy and its impact on our future.”

A splash of cold water in Waterblogged.info’s face!

(And now a splatter of egg on my face as well. Man, I really screwed this up! Corrections are based on friendly comments from the two people whose lives, careers, and credentials I’d confused, conflated, and conjoined to such an extent that it looked like we might need to bring in a surgeon. After hours of tediously untangling the snarl of errors and omissions I managed to create (and running it by Waterblogged.info’s lawyer), I think I have it right. )

After my rigorous morning procrastination routine, I drove over to Waterblogged.info’s Northern California office and found this urgent message from a concerned reader and fellow water blogger:

Where is your reminder for yesterday’s World Water Day 2009? Have you given up? Has the water shortage problem gone away? Or have I overlooked something?

A worried water friend.

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D., physician, author.

250px-tear_systemsvgJust knowing that someone out there notices and cares brings a blurry mist of a saline solution–comprised of water, mucin, lipids, lysozyme, lactoferrin, lipocalin, lacritin, immunoglobulins, glucose, urea, sodium, and potassium–to my eyes and a renewed commitment to carry on with the underappreciated art of waterblogging.

I referred to  Dr. Fleckenstein–co-author with Roanne Weisman of a book called Health2O and sometime contributor to Wiesman’s blog— as a  “sort of” fellow water blogger because her beat is so different from mine: She is the CEO, senior writer, and chief medical officer at Own Your Health Health2O is about her Water for Health system that touts–among other alternative water-based therapies–the health benefits of cold showers. (BRRRRRRRaaaacing!)

Before you start with the judging and the “If she talks like a quack, she must be a etc.” business, read about the good doctor’s  (and Weisman’s) book  here.  And read one of Weisman’s entries on cold shower therapy here. extraordinary complete recovery from a crushing mid-life stroke. In her words, rather than accept the grim prognosis of the doctors who recommended adapting to her crippled condition, she:

. . . chose to fight my way back to recovery, and this is a tough thing to do for those of us who are accustomed to seeing our doctors as omniscient beings who control our health. I learned about methods of healing outside of mainstream conventional medicine,including Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has used acupuncture for thousands of years to treat stroke patients.

Yes, Dr. Fleckenstein, I just googled “water shortage problem” and dagnabbit, it hasn’t gone away! You haven’t overlooked anything, I have. I’m late in recognizing World Water Day, but this is  a Waterblogged.info tradition. As penance for my latest sin of omission, I’m linking to your wonderful World Water Day posting. It contains what is perhaps a perfect anecdote to illustrate what–aside from a friggin’ clue–is missing from the consciousness of Americans and others in the developed world: a reverent respect for water. It also contains bonus cool water  words like rivulet, rill,  and runnel.  It begins:

Turkey, 1970. A young American couple and a Turk at a small wellspring – a trifling rill of water in a vast land of rolling hills covered in ochre gravel and brown dried brush.

The Americans, with their feet in a muddy puddle that sends that paltry rivulet trickling down the hill, are shampooing their hair. They are laughing, trying to engage the Turk with their friendliness. “Su! Su!” says the Turk. He is tiny compared to the strapping young couple, and I suspect he is not as old as he looks – aged before his time as people are who live in arid regions. The Americans listen good-naturedly and seem to enjoy his funny gesturing. They are now rinsing their hair in the runnel that percolates meagerly from the rocks above. . .

Chile: yet another free-market success story!

map_of_chileThe New York Times recently ran a story about mining companies in Chile that suck up all the water in already arid regions–in this case the driest spot on the planet–pollute the rest, and as a result decimate the local agriculture and drive away the inhabitants. (The title of this post is therefore an ironic bait-and-switch, unless of course you think this represents a triumph for unfettered capitalism (which in a sense it is, I guess.)

Chile is apparently a world leader in implementing free-market measures that have removed the bothersome fetters of  government regulation from the claws of business and industry. One result, says the story, is that:

. . . Private ownership [of water] is so concentrated in some areas that a single electricity company from Spain, Endesa, has bought up 80 percent of the water rights in a huge region in the south, causing an uproar.

Ecological and social justice concerns have brought some reversals. This mid-2008 story from the Patagonia Times is a good snapshot of the major battles over water rights in Chile. It’s interesting that the free reign granted Endesa and other companies in 1981 was modified in 2005 in an attempt to protect the public interest. This mid-2008 story from an online Spanish (as in Spain) news source reports that Endesa and its partners were denied water rights in Chile’s southernmost sector, Patagonia, effectively barring them from building five planned hydroelectric dams in a region world famous for its natural beauty.  Coincidentally, there is a banner ad for Endesa currently at the top of the page.

Water Consciousness!

In previous posts, Waterblogged.info’s summer reading list! Part 1, and Waterblogged.info’s summer reading list! Part 2, we recommended what we believe to be 10 important books about the global water crisis. All great books, but if you want the essential primer about the problems and how you can contribute to solutions*, snag a copy of Alternet’s Water Consciousness. Timely and informative, but also beautiful and accessible, it’s truly a good choice for agenda-driven holiday gift giving. Go here and press that green button that says Buy Now and follow the instructions to the letter.

*For example, a list of 14 Actions You Can Take to Protect Our Water. Don’t search–it’s not there.

Waterblogged.info’s summer reading list, pt. 2

Fun at the beach

By now you’ve devoured the five books that we recommended in Waterblogged.info’s summer reading list, Part 1. We imagine you staring out at the white beach and azure water and watching fellow vacationers as they swim, fish, snorkel, boat, water ski, jet ski, surf, sail, dig for clams, sing off-key to folk songs they wouldn’t be caught dead listening to, watch for whales and screech maniacally when they hallucinate one, and make languorous love on the cool sand at the water’s edge as the tidewater gently and rhythmically laps at their feet. We imagine you thinking, “Now what the hell am I going to do?”

Waterblogged.info rescues you from the dog-day doldrums with part 2 of our summer reading list. All available at Powell Books.

Water Follies

From the publisher’s comment: [Author Robert Glennon]. . .illustrate(s) the science of hydrology and the legal aspects of water use and conflicts. . .(and offers. . .stories — ranging from Down East Maine to San Antonio’s River Walk to Atlanta’s burgeoning suburbs — that clearly illustrate the array of problems caused by groundwater pumping. Each episode poses a conflict of values that reveals the complexity of how and why we use water. These poignant and sometimes perverse tales tell of human foibles including greed, stubbornness, and, especially, the unlimited human capacity to ignore reality. A great talk by Glennon on this YouTube video posted by the California Colloquium on Water.

Cadillac Desert

From publisher’s comments: Newly updated, this timely history of the struggle to discover and control water in the American West is a tale of rivers diverted and damned, political corruption and intrigue, billion-dollar battles over water rights, and economic and ecological disaster. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.


The Water Atlas

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a well-made graphic–map, chart, table, or graph–may be worth, ummm. . . 50,000 words? From the publisher’s comments: Plentiful maps, graphs and tables illustrate the cycle of precipitation and condensation, the percentage of cropland watered by irrigation around the world and the way increasing use of chemicals in agriculture is destroying freshwater sources. A section called ‘Re-Shaping the Natural World’ examines the destructive role of dams and other water systems, while another section looks at the potential for international conflict over scarce water resources in regions such as the already volatile Middle East. [Published in 2004; some info dated, no doubt. Ed.]

Design for Water

Breaking from our long-standing tradition of simply whining about water problems, Waterblogged.info points you to a collection of diy alternative water collection methods. Publisher’s notes: In addition to rainwater, there are several affordable and accessible alternate sources, including cooling tower bleed-off water, air conditioning condensate, gray water, and fog collection. Design for Water is geared to providing those making development decisions and guidelines with the information they need to set up passive harvesting techniques. The book will especially appeal to engineers, landscape architects, municipal decision-makers, developers, and landowners.

Not a Drop to Drink

Hey everybody, let’s all agree that, from this date forward, nobody can use “Water, water, everywhere,” or “Not a drop to drink,” as a title for an article or book about water. Okay? More concise than some of the other overviews of water woes, this is a good introduction and offers potential activists advice on how to take action. From the publisher’s comments: In this straightforward, story-driven book, Ken Midkiff talks to crusty ranchers in Topeka, suited lawyers in Atlanta, and smooth-talking politicians in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Using regional and national case studies, he analyzes and presents the roots of the problem, and then says what we must do to solve it. [Emphasis ours. Ed.]