What a terrific article.
I’m once again reminded of a blithely tossed-out-there observation from my grad school professor of water policy and planning. He completed bachelors, masters, and doctorate studies at three western-state universities, but at the time was lecturing to an audience mostly of easterners: people who knew, by experience, days of sheets of rain. Or mountains of snow. Or both. And he clearly wanted to foster a sense of empathy for the parched among the moistened.
What he said sixteen years ago, what stuck, was this: the farther west you go beyond the Mississippi River, the more likely it is that you’ll find something in the local news, TV or print (if the latter, in the first section if not the front page), relating to water. My eight years in California have offered me evidence that the guy knew what the hell he was talking about, although I suspected as much at the time.
The matter of recycling domestic wastewater into non-potable uses—irrigation comes to mind—is big enough. Rendering it safely potable is an entirely bigger deal, and represents an approach that I expect will be increasingly applied, and would argue to present itself to be increasingly necessary on short order.
Having spent a couple years managing stakeholder group processes relating to state-level public drinking water regulatory issues, successfully navigating the competing view points that arose within the context of comparatively less volatile source protection initiatives, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the outreach and education efforts necessary to getting such a project approved and implemented. I am beyond impressed.
And I get it: there’s an ick factor to be overcome, and as the NYT article demonstrates, some in the California community profiled remain unconvinced, too heavily invested in the fear and disgust to be moved by facts. The hurdles are more psychological and emotional than they are technical.
But as a once student of and practitioner within matters hydrospheric, I’d offer a simple truth: there’s probably no infinitesimal parcel of our planet’s limited supply of water that has not at one time or another passed through someone’s or something’s system, or percolated through the leavings of same. Multiple times. Deal with it. Welcome to the water cycle.This is what water does: it cycles. On and on and in and through and in and out and on and on.
(dmb tangent: I thought that I’d recognized the article author’s name; confirming as much served me some embarassment at not yet having read her recent and largely acclaimed book on the subject of bottled water, languishing on my gotta-read-this mental list for months. I expect that stumbling across this recent contribution to the New York Times and making the connection will serve as kick-in-pants to make my way to the bookstore. Soon, already.)