Photo via RickC via Flickr CC
We have a local food movement, which encourages people to have a smaller environmental impact by eating food grown within a 100 mile radius. Is the next local movement going to be aimed at water? Dr. Peter H. Gleick, the co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute, hopes so. In an article at Huffington Post, he argues that it's time to extend the idea of living local to water sources.
Our major cities long ago outgrew their ability to provide enough food for the - sometimes - millions of people living in them, and they long ago outgrew their ability to provide enough water with purely local resources. New York City relies on water from upstate New York. Los Angeles relies on water from northern California and the Colorado River. San Francisco moves water from the Sierra Nevada. Even ancient Rome built aqueducts to move water long distances to supply the needs of the city when it outgrew local springs.
So when I call for a "local water" movement, I do not mean cities must shrink, or cut off the movement of water from neighboring watersheds. But a local water movement would lead to increased efforts to use local resources more effectively, to treat and reuse water once it has been brought into a region, to minimize the broader environmental consequences of water use and management, and to give priorities to local actions and management.
Historically, cities have sprouted up only near water sources. But as our ability to move water from place to place has increased, we've been able to build cities anywhere, even in the middle of deserts. But our mismanagement of water is catching up to us and the idea of shipping water half way across the globe from haves (like Alaska) to have-nots (like India) is starting to gain traction among private companies.
It seems like the perfect time to start up a local water movement.
Gleick outlines the necessities of such a movement, including drastically improving the efficiencies of water use, from real-time data on water consumption, to repairing and updating piping and infrastructure, to making more intelligent use of recycled water.
He also outlines the benefits such a movement could have, including decreasing the consumption of bottled water, improved health of riparian habitats, and the use of smart water technologies to maximize efficiencies.
Each local movement would look different, depending upon the resources and needs of the area -- the movement in Sedona, Arizona would look much different from the movement in Seattle, Washington, for instance.
What might a local water movement look like in your area? Perhaps it's time to ask this of your city leaders and get the ball rolling.
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