Waterblogged.info’s New Year’s Resolutions!

Like the “Fifty things to do before you die” lists, New Year’s resolutions are driven by a nagging, narcissistic dissatisfaction that feels an awful lot like guilt. But the “fifty things” lists are more ambitious than the typical beginning-of-the-year vows to go to the gym five times a week and organize your iTunes library. They’re usually based on the premise that you’re, if not affluent, at least comfortably middle-class, and are convinced that no life is well lived until one has, for example, scaled K2, jammed on a violin over the Hungarian minor scale with a blown-away Yo Yo Ma, taught English to the grateful inhabitants of Lesotho, made perfect soft-boiled eggs at several different altitudes, and impressed residents of Beijing with flawless Mandarin.

Of course, the must-do lists of the billion or so poor of the planet are no doubt less ambitious but more immediate: Get access to clean water before I die, eat before I die, get decent medical care before I die, etc. Everything’s relative.

This year, I’ve decided to come up with a hybrid of the two sorts of list, water related of course: Ten New Year’s Resolutions to Do Before I Die. Rather than just bore the reader with my self-involved and possibly grandiose goals, I’ve linked each item to a compelling–and in some cases fascinating–bit of information about everyone’s favorite sugar-free beverage.

  1. Collaborate with Dr. Peter Gleick to put a stop to the gargantuan, insane, destined-to-fail desalination project moving relentlessly forward in Southern California.
  2. Help Matt Damon move mountains.
  3. Get myself appointed Obama’s special peace envoy to broker settlements to supposedly imminent water wars.
  4. Work feverishly with NASA scientists to figure out how to efficiently transport moon water to Earth.
  5. Save the salmon!
  6. Fish for Asian carp in the Great Lakes.
  7. Work with Willie Nelson to develop an iPhone app version of his home water-from-air system.
  8. Jet-ski the Golden Age Lake!
  9. Join up with Food & Water Watch. (This may be the only attainable goal on this list.)
  10. Not go for months without posting.

Breaking news: Company that builds desalination plants defends desalination!

[Below, following this absurdly long note, is a comment on Waterblogged.info’s 3/16/09 post, Desalination: No silver bullet in the Middle East, which links to a National Geographic story that is essentially a skeptical–and reasonable–look at desalination as the solution to the constant droughts and the shortage and maldistribution of water in the Middle East. The email address of the person who left the comment indicates that he/she works for Water Consultants, Inc–a company that can hardly be considered a disinterested party when it comes to debating the pros and cons of industrial-scale desalination.

The editor in chief of Waterblogged.info realized that our response was so incisive, informative, wise, and witty–not to mention self-important, defensive, derogatory, snide, and judgmental–that it could easily be repurposed as a Waterblogged.info entry! Cut and paste and take the rest of the day off! See end of post for more exciting desal info!]

Thanks to the Pacific Institute, http://www.pacinst.org/

Thanks to the Pacific Institute, http://www.pacinst.org/

The corporate shill says:

Your link to the referenced NatGeo article is broken. Pity I would have loved to read who the so-called “experts” were that think that way about desalination plants. Most desalination plants are good environmental citizens, properly regulated and diligently operated where ever they are needed to be a valuable asset to a communities balanced portfolio of water supply options.

Thanks to the PR flak from Water Consultants International, Inc–a company whose business is, per its site, “planning, design and implementation of advanced water treatment (AWT), and membrane and thermal desalination projects”–for pointing out the broken link, which I fixed.

Thanks also for the breathtakingly perfect example of corporate-speak–marred only by garbled syntax, a misspelling, and at least one punctuation and one grammatical error. Not bad for 60 words.

It would be fair to take Waterblogged.info or any other blog to task for referring to “experts” without citing anyone specific. But, National Geographic? Cut me a break.

Hey dude, you want “experts” without the quotation marks? Well, I’ll give you experts without the quotation marks: the fine folk at the Pacific Institute (PI), headed up by Peter Gleick,  one of the nation’s foremost authorities on water. In the institute’s recent report, Desalination, With a Grain of Salt: A California Perspective, the researchers’ take a moderate and cautious position on desalination, one most likely held by the experts dismissed by our pen-pal from WCI. From PI’s site:

The potential benefits of ocean desalination are great, but the economic, cultural, and environmental costs of wide commercialization remain high. In many parts of the world, alternatives can provide the same freshwater benefits of ocean desalination at far lower economic and environmental costs. These alternatives include treating low-quality local water sources, encouraging regional water transfers, improving conservation and efficiency, accelerating wastewater recycling and reuse, and implementing smart land-use planning.

For a humongous amount of information on desal–both fer and agin’–go to Waterblogged.info’s page Getting serious with Waterblogged.info: desalination. There you will find links to papers, articles, videos, and pdfs, that will help you be the center of attention at the next beer-bash when desalination inevitably comes up. A good beginning is a mutimedia presentation by journalist and water expert, Cynthia Barnett, A Tour of Tampa Bay’s Desalination Plant.

Peter Gleick on California’s water crisis

Peter Gleick

Peter Gleick

(Update: On January 16, the essential water blog, WaterWired, posted this entry about Peter Gleick’s recent presentations to the U.S. House and Senate on the urgent necessity to establish a national water policy. WaterWired’s sole proprietor, Michael Campana–not incidentally director of the Institute for Water and Watersheds at Oregon State University and professor of geosciences there–has suggested that Gleick should be named the first White House Water Adviser.)

What do the water crisis, Dante’s Inferno, Hollywood movies, Sandra Bullock, the Mars Rover, and cholera, have in common? Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, arguably America’s foremost water expert, connects the unlikely dots in this fascinating recent talk at UC Berkeley.

You can skip the introductory remarks and go to 20:00 to hear Gleick being introduced. While his talk focused on California, Gleick puts the state’s problem in a global context, which makes this a good general introduction world water woes.

The good news is that California has plenty of water–scarcity is not the problem. At about 38:30, Gleick starts identifying the factors standing in the way of assuring that all Californian’s have access to clean and affordable water.