Remember the good old days? Back around 2006–2007, when “Green Building” was taking off—riding on the coattails of America’s real estate bubble and a round of clean tech investor speculation similar to Silicon Valley in its heyday—and all around us were signs of a brighter, greener future? Hopes were high, and every couple of days there was a new story about “smart buildings” and predictions that rooftops solar panels would soon blanket the nation. And with the specter of climate change looming the background, we all patted ourselves on the back for being so self aware—we were heroes, thanks to curbside recycling and the Prius. We were going to nip this global warming thing in the bud, and soon we’d all be driving electric cars while comfortably ensconced in our fleece pullovers (made from plastic water bottles of course!).
Then green fatigue set in. Turns out, awareness is not enough—especially when one is confronted by conflicting information and a sea of expectations. What was once a simple equation—fossil fuels = bad, corn ethanol = good—turned about to be a lot more complicated, especially when the focus was expanded beyond greenhouse gas emissions and energy use to include other finite resources, including water.
And now it appears that we are on the cusp of a new bubble, something I’d like to call blue fever. Those of us in the water efficiency industry are already aware—and have been aware for quite some time—that we are on a collision course with our water resources. Many of us are already in the throes of long-term drought (hello Atlanta!) or gritting our teeth anxiously in anticipation of spiraling infrastructure costs in the face of reduced funding.
And while the situation at home always demands your attention, many of us are also concerned about water resource management on an international level. We can tick off the statistics without pause: Less than 1% of the world’s water is freshwater suitable for human use; 20% of the world’s population has no access to clean water; global water use has tripled in the last 50 years; and by 2025, the world’s population will reach almost 9 billion, with 75% of those folks residing in the developing world. Dissemination of water information has certainly spurred action—bottle water use continues to decline and the adoption of smart water technologies (intelligent irrigation, low-flow fixtures, and AMR/AMI) is on the rise.
But are we headed towards water awareness fatigue? While I applaud all efforts to inform and engage the public, lately it seems as if a whole legion of new journalists have descended upon us, each of them writing delicately alarmist articles on the water crisis, full of scary statistics and even more frightening predictions. Unfortunately, after perusing one or two of these think pieces, the information—and the prognostication—all starts to bleed together. Which makes me wonder, are we reaching information overload?
So what do you think? Has there been an uptick in reports on the “world water crisis?” Can shining a light—even a 1,000-kW spotlight—on a problem help inspire action and uncover solutions, or can the issue itself get drowned out from overexposure?
For more information on water and the developing world, go to: www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats.