Sacramento, California’s capital city, is No. 1!

California-based is proud to report that the results are in, and the state’s capital, Sacramento, has been deemed the No. 1 water-wasting community in the U.S., and maybe in the world!

According to this recent story by Matt Weiser of the Sacramento Bee, SacTown (supposedly one of the city’s nicknames, per Wikipedia) easily beat out such formidable competitors as Las Vegas and Los Angeles in per capita water use. Other highly-populated regions throughout the state and country have gone all out in the grueling, high-stakes contest, but in the end, as Weiser notes, it wasn’t even close:

No concentration of residents and businesses, however, uses as much as Sacramento: 25 percent more per capita on a daily basis than Las Vegas, and nearly 50 percent more than Los Angeles.

Stunned also-ran opponents were quick to point out that Sacramento’s large base of industrial and agricultural users gave it an unfair advantage, but Weiser notes that the victory was a community effort:

Even excluding large industrial and agricultural users, the Bee’s review of an array of water statistics found per-capita consumption here is greater than the U.S. daily average. It’s also higher than urban use in Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and a host of other developed nations.

What’s Sacto’s (another nickname) secret? Well, apparently the city has developed some innovative tactics, such as banning brooms for outdoor use. Asked why she was hosing down her sidewalk, a resident said:

. . .it’s either that or the (leaf) blower.”

But, as in all high-level competition, what it really comes down to is dogged determination. While other cities, such as Las Vegas and even LA, have started to bow to environmentalists’ pressures to conserve, Sacramento and its surrounding municipalities have stolidly resisted. Observers are still shaking their heads in awe over the region’s daring eight-year fake-out play: In 2000, Sacramento and 14 other regional urban areas promised to meet 16 conservation goals. To date, they’ve collectively failed to meet half the goals, and regional leader Sacramento, the Big Tomato, completed none.

The region isn’t planning on resting on its laurels. Though conservationists are pushing for reducing the amount of water taken from the American and Sacramento rivers, Weiser reports that:

. . .several Sacramento-area water districts are laying plans to divert more river flows to keep up with demand.

Advertisements takes a sick day, or two, or three

The bad news is that’s entire editorial staff has been laid low by a flu bug that spread through our office faster than a dirty lie about Obama on the internet.

The good news is that we’ve been forced to take to our collective beds, which really isn’t such a bad thing. It will give us a couple of days of downtime to rest, evaluate our work thus far, contemplate ways to upgrade the blog, and reassess this whole cumbersome writing-in-the-first-person plural business.

Before we sink back into a hallucinogenic fever-and-Theraflu-induced stupor, we raise a shaky finger to point you in the direction of Alternet’s water page, which offers a big selection of water-related articles where you can learn, for example, why a desalination plant will soon be in operation in supposedly water-flush New England.

Seeds of hope or seeds of doubt? The new rainmakers

Prolonged drought breeds desperation and desperation can lead to seeking out and putting faith in unconventional measures. This is why rainmakers have always been and will always be with us. And that’s why the dire prognosis for the world’s water supply has brought a renewed interest in cloud-seeding. Writer Elizabeth Svoboda describes the latest efforts at high-tech aerial rain dancing in an article from the April 2008 issue of Popular Mechanics :

. . .cloud seeders fly directly into the roiling depths, firing dozens of foot-long flares that disperse a cocktail of salty substances as they burn up. The salt forms millions of ice nuclei that attract droplets of water. Eventually, the drops grow heavy enough to fall out of the sky as rain. “Our mission is to make inefficient clouds more efficient with aerosols that are lacking in nature,” says Bruce Boe, Weather Modification’s director of meteorology.

Yes, science is finally dealing with those inefficient–possibly even lazy–clouds that are floating around up there all listless and anemic due to an aerosol deficiency. (in this sense, aerosol mean fine particulate matter dispersed in a gas, not just what you spray on ants or armpits.)

Our cheeky, skeptical tone notwithstanding, we really don’t know if cloud seeding works. As the article states, there’s no agreement about it in the scientific community (see also here). But this hasn’t stopped the wide-spread use of cloud-seeding to not only induce precipitation, but to disperse fog, reduce the size of hailstones, and clear polluted air. Hey, The Chinese swear by it.

Click on the illustration to see other examples of the spectacular work of its creator, Ian Kim.

It’s not really toilet to tap—but yuck, anyway

As this recent article from the Wall Street Journal explains, using recycled wastewater for drinking water is a complex process with many steps that most experts believe leaves that which wets your whistle about as pure as it can get. But, let’s face it, we’re crossing a line here. Then again, maybe this is the negative incentive we need. (The image on the left is from a story in the High Country News, an ecological journal focused on the American West.)

These first couple of paragraphs from the blog of the Greensboro, NC-based News & Record raise the possibility that squeamishness could encourage conservation:

As yet another drought turns what once were local lakes into vast plains of cracked red clay, how serious — really serious — are we willing to get about conserving water?

Serious enough to raise a toast with the same water in which we bathed or washed dishes — or worse?

This article discusses LA’s plan for “sewer to spigot” (another colorful term coined by detractors) recycling. This blog entry discusses a recently launched Orange County system for what the author considers an acceptable method for this kind of recycling.’s first job fair!

According to this article in the unfortunately named Water & Wastes Digest (a journal, maybe the journal, for water and waste-water treatment professionals) the industry is on a collision course with a staffing crisis. The current cadre of largely baby-boomer water delivery technicians are quickly reaching retirement age and there is a dearth of young trained professionals ready to step up to whatever it is you would step up to at a treatment facility. From the article:

According to the recent Water & Wastes Digest State of the Industry Report, the average water/wastewater professional has been working in the industry for 22 years. Almost one-third (30%) of 10,000 randomly surveyed subscribers to Water & Wastes Digest have been in the industry for 30 years or more. Additionally, 41.5% of respondents said they are between the ages of 50 and 59.

It doesn’t take much to see that Baby Boomers currently hold many critical positions and as they reach retirement, there won’t be young professionals galore waiting to enter the water and wastewater field. This problem is even more severe in rural areas and remote locations where it is especially challenging to find, train and keep skilled employees.

What’s more alarming is that many utilities could find themselves in such desperate need to fill vacancies that they may end up hiring people lacking the technical know-how and experience necessary for the job.

Hey kids, want’s advice? Of course you do! Head on over to Water & Wastes Digests web site and nose around through their content, particularly the Zone link. If your eyes don’t glaze over reading about filtration, membrane technology, and ultraviolet disinfection, and that indie band or hip hop career isn’t taking off as planned, check out your local community college or university for the relevant training. We’re talkin’ recession-proof employment here. (At social gatherings, you might just want to say that you’re in the water management field and skip the wastewater part. Just sayin’. . . .)

Desal Nation, part 2: California style

The team finds itself in the unusual position of praising a local (San Francisco) television station for its coverage. Taking a break from petty crime, murders, fires, and traffic accidents, San Francisco’s ABC affiliate, KGO, offers A Look at the Desalination Process, an informative video update on the state-of-the-art of desalination efforts in water-challenged California. Of particular interest are the numerous small desal plants that pepper the coast (see map at left grabbed from the video) that have been deployed to test the concept. They work, but they are currently delivering a meaningless minuscule percentage of the water requirements for the communities they serve. The KGO reporter does not gush about the potential; desalinated ocean water is and will be very expensive and otherwise problematic (think lots of dead and otherwise threatened coastal and sea life) for the foreseeable future.

We have dutifully added a link to the KGO video to our ever-growing page of desalination resources: Getting Serious with Desalination. Included in that compendium is a narrated slide show called A Tour of Tampa Bay’s Desalination Plant, written and narrated by a journalist who specializes in water issues, Cynthia Barnett.

Desal Nation!

Recently, in April 2008, The (U.S.) National Research Council released an important report about the current state of desalination in the U.S. titled Desalination: A National Perspective.

Navigating from the handy-dandy book icon below, you can read it online or download it as a PDF. You executives out there can also read or download the executive summary, and there is even a podcast summary. For some reason, items on the web that are designated FREE in capital letters are not, but in this case, it’s lower-case free, meaning you can read or download the entire document without paying a nickel. (If you insist on spending money, you can buy the paperback version for the strange sum of $57.83.) has addressed desalination here and here, and maintains and updates the soon-to-be-famous Getting Serious with Desalination, a comprehensive package of online resources on the topic—pro and con and every position in-between—with annotated links to articles, white papers, PDFs, diagrams, and videos. It’s also free in the lower-case sense of the word.

Read this FREE online!Full Book | PDF Summary | PDF Report Brief