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Tue, Nov. 21st, 2006, 09:55 pm
cyotha: Focus on Water

Husbandry of water resources is a basic issue in land use management, so I'd like to throw a spotlight on a few interesting water-related links.

Access to water for drinking, crops, and household uses is a continuing struggle for much of the world's poor. This year, the UN released its second World Water Development Report, "Water, a shared responsibility," which surveys global freshwater resources and progress towards water-related targets of the Millenium Development Goals.

Developing nations often undertake megadam projects, thinking they are the magic bullet to solve water scarcity. Unfortunately, megadams also spawn a number of negative consequences as well, some foreseeable, some not. Rainwaterharvesting.org is a website which explores dam alternatives, with a focus on India.

Climate change threatens water supplies even in the industrialized world. The Global Change Program of the Pacific Institute has published a report detailing how climate change is likely to affect water resources in the US ("Water: Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change"). They also have an online, searchable database for researchers, The Water and Climate Bibliography.

Thu, Apr. 19th, 2007 01:09 pm (UTC)

Is it true there are plates underneath europe (I'm thinking Spain in particular) which give countries a supply of fresh water, but that this is getting mixed with sea water and will become useless soon?

Thu, May. 3rd, 2007 05:20 am (UTC)
e_moon60: Seawater contamination of aquifers

Near-coastal aquifers are always at risk for seawater contamination: often a lens of fresh water floats on top of denser saltwater. If the fresh water is pumped down, then you get seawater. Also, as sealevel rises, salt water can infiltrate near-coastal aquifers that were, previously, all fresh.

Salt-water contamination of coastal aquifers is a problem in many countries and is expected to increase with global warming.

Thu, May. 3rd, 2007 05:23 am (UTC)
e_moon60: Focus on Water: things to do

While water shortages already exist and are expected to get worse, there are specific small-scale actions which people can take to alleviate the problems.

1) Rainwater runoff from structures, roads, and parking lots causes erosion, floods, and puts polluted water (from sources on the roads and parking lots, primarily) directly into streams. Thus collecting/diverting/storing rainwater runoff has many benefits.

Thu, May. 3rd, 2007 05:42 am (UTC)
e_moon60: Re: Focus on Water: things to do

Huh...this posted before I wanted it to...silly machine. To continue:

Collecting rainwater that would otherwise become erosive, polluted runoff has many benefits. Rainwater from roofs (the least polluted usually) can be collected at source and used without further treatment for everything but drinking and cooking: watering plants, watering livestock, running through toilets. Rainwater from roads and parking lots (the most polluted, usually) can be diverted into holding ponds where it's biologically treated to reduce or eliminate the pollution.

Lawn and garden use makes up a lot of our water use...and it's a total waste of municipal treated-water supply to use treated water in this way (as well as not good for the plants: they would prefer unchlorinated water.)

For every 1000 square feet of roof area, a homeowner can harvest 600 gallons of water from a one-inch rain. All it takes is gutters, downspouts, and storage tanks. Every roof can be guttered and thus harvest rainwater: we collect rainwater from the house roof, the carport, the barn. This has reduced our dependence on city water: we water the fruit trees, the water garden, the horses, the yard, entirely from rainwater. We also have two rain barns (rain-harvesting structures, purpose-built) to provide water for wildlife at a distance from the house. These have only about 400 square feet of collecting area, but provide constant water supply for birds, mammals, amphibians, insects. Homeowners could, in most cases, supply all the water they need for garden and lawn from rooftop rainwater collection.

Enlightened communities (Austin, Texas is one) give homeowners rebates for installing rainwater harvesting. Others, on the opposite end of the scale, forbit homeowners to collect rainwater (Dallas, Texas, for instance.) Everyone in the dryer parts of the country should find out what their local ordinances are, and if they forbid rainwater collection...fight to get that changed. Roof-water collection is common in Australia.

Collecting roof water is simple: install gutters, run the downspouts into collecting tanks, attach hoses to the outlets of the tank. Sometimes it's difficult to find space for big enough collecting tanks, but there are ways... In emergencies, roof water can be boiled or chemically treated for drinking and cooking.

City planners (and citizens leaning on city planners) should understand how much water comes off of new streets and the roofs of new developments and insist on planning for managing that water. Discharge from diversion ponds should never be muddy or polluted...that's what the diversion pond is for, to keep muddy, dirty water out of streams. Water from such ponds could be used in parks and playgrounds (to water the trees and grass), or returned to streams in times of drought. In the meantime, it will support wildlife if properly managed.

But take the first step. Put up a gutter. Put a small (say, 300 gallon) storage tank under the downspout. Begin to grasp how much water has been wasted because it ran off your roof, down onto a dirty street, made potholes on its way to the end of the block, and then contributed mostly silt and gravel and pollution to the stream or lake it finally landed in.

Thu, May. 3rd, 2007 05:57 pm (UTC)
overgrownpath: Re: Focus on Water: things to do

Anything that sounds quite dynamic and like a more independent life sounds exciting to me - this is great stuff. People can't and don't want to look outside of their little world though, what's easy for them. Who would see the point of collecting rainwater if you can just turn the tap on?

Thu, May. 3rd, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
e_moon60: Re: Focus on Water: things to do

Understood...and I was a "turn the tap on" person for years myself. One reason was that I simply did not know how much water a roof yielded, and another was, as you said, that it was easier to just turn the tap. And water seemed cheap...the water bill wasn't that high.

Things changed when the city began to run short every summer--and raised the price per thousand gallons--and when we bought the neighboring field and started trying to figure out how to provide water for wildlife where they needed it. Sure, we could have a well dug...but that was expensive, added to the problem of declining aquifer resources, and would need a pump (with the electricity to run it--even more expense.) I was noodling around on the internet looking at water resources in our state, when I ran across a publication from the state water quality board on rainwater harvesting. My jaw dropped--600 gallons per thousand square feet per inch of rainfall, at a minimum? Wow.

We didn't believe it at first. We ran the first length of gutter on one side of the house, bought a 300 gallon tank (not very big, easy to handle), set it up, and...the next rainfall, the tank was full and running over. We guttered the house, bought more tanks...and suddenly we could keep the water garden full, without paying city prices. We had put in a little wildlife guzzler about a quarter mile from the house, and at peak use we were havingt to haul 5 gallons of water up there every day. By leg power. So we built the first rain barn, with two 300 gallon tanks, nearby. That was 3 1/2 years ago and we have not had to haul water up there since the first rainfall after it was finished. When we built the new barn, we guttered it and put in two big tanks (2500 gallons)...and since then have not needed city water for anything but indoor use. And it's decreased erosion and standing water problems as well. The latest rain barn was designed to supply another water garden--designed for wildlife use including enough space for amphibians and dragonflies to reproduce--at the far end of the place. Though completed in a drought, the few small rains began to fill the tanks before we had the water garden finished, and we've had water out there not only for the wildlife water garden, but also to water some plantings.

If we had gone the conventional route of having a couple of wells dug, having the utility company run poles and a power line to a pump for each well, and then paying the monthly electric costs of the pump, it would have been a lot more expensive...as well as drawing down the aquifer, which around here is constantly dropping as more and more demands are placed on it. We saved money, we saved "our part" of a valuable water resource, we made use of rainwater that would otherwise have washed away more soil and carried silt downstream to fill up some reservoir.

Sometimes all it takes is people realizing what could be done, and how easy it is. We're not plumbers or carpenters...everything we've built is something any moderately handy person could put together (for the horse barn, we hired it done--as simply as possible.) So I've become a real enthusiast (some might say PITA) about rainwater harvesting. Saves money, helps the environment, garden grows better...what's not to like?

Thu, May. 3rd, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous): Re: Focus on Water: things to do

Great story about how to save money and conserve resources at the same time.

Local governments can help get out the word on rainwater harvesting and other conservation measures. In Seattle, Seattle Public Utilities puts out a quarterly newsletter that talks about these issues. They also offer rain water barrels and compost bins for sale to the public at a reduced price.

BTW, many people may not realize that Seattle, famous for its rain, has water scarcity issues. Actually, most of our rain falls in the winter season. From June through mid-September, we usually get less than one or two inches of rain a month. It's common practice to let your lawn die off during the dry season. Also, our water supply comes from a mountain lake that is supplied by snowmelt. Thanks to global warming, snow accumulation has lessened and summer water supplies are increasingly strained.

Sat, Feb. 16th, 2013 04:31 pm (UTC)

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