Reducing our carbon footprint have become poster child words for this decade. Most states have rebates and incentives for both homeowners and businesses to curb their energy habits. Heck, the federal government gives investment credits and deductions too. But what about our water consumption? Is water so indispensable that it just isn’t a concern? It would appear that way since less than half of the states provide rebates for water saving devices.
Authors Susan Leal, who has deep experience in managing water at a local level in the United States, and Peter Rogers, one of the world’s foremost global water experts paint a different picture in their new book, Running Out of Water. Instead of painting a doom and gloom, the sky is falling scenario,
“[t]hey offer a comprehensive look at the crisis—from the West Coast, where mighty rivers are being diverted for Californias agriculture—to the Gulf Coast of Florida, where snowbird retreats are straining natural resources—to traditionally thirsty parts of the world, like southern India, where water is available but infrastructure to deliver it is limited or nonexistent. Focusing on solutions, Running Out of Water lays out the political leadership, policy action and technology tools required to sustain our water supplies.”[Source.]
I had the chance to interview Susan via email regarding her book.
What was the impetus in writing this book? What event happened that made you decide this is the time to write a book about our world running out of water?
As the former general manager of a major water utility, I was aware of the chronic problems facing most American cities and what would be required to adequately address those issues. From my experiences in San Francisco, I knew that the solution to the problem was not new technology because the necessary technology is already available. What is most needed is get past the inertia. For utilities and governments that run those utilities to get past that inertia, public support and involvement is critical. This book on water was written as a call to action, to try to engage the public in this effort.
So when I was chosen for the Advanced Leadership Fellows Program at Harvard University, I wanted to draw public attention to the dismal state of water and wastewater infrastructure in the United States. I teamed up with global water expert and Harvard Professor Peter Rogers to write Running Out of Water, since a book is a great vehicle for exploring and clearly explaining the complex issues that together are placing tremendous pressure on our supply of clean water: climate change, population growth, irresponsible use of water in food production, and increasingly polluted public water ways.
What is the book about and is it geared towards ordinary people to change their ways or more towards Corporate America?
Running Out of Water is a forward-thinking book aimed at presenting a wide range of solutions to the world’s most challenging water and wastewater issues. I think the book has a number of audiences, ranging from individuals to corporations that depend on clean water to government agencies responsible for treating and maintaining the public water supply. Anyone who has a vested interest in the future of our available water supply – and really, that should be all of us – should find something of value in the book.
What was your goal in writing this book?
I wrote this book to raise public awareness about the looming global water crisis and what proactive steps can be taken to slow or even stop this crisis from coming to fruition. Many forward-thinking government agencies have already taken steps to protect water security in their areas, and we wanted to show what’s possible with technology that is already known and readily available.
What have governments failed to address with regard to our water usage? If you could write your own legislation, what would it say?
There are two major issues that governments could and should be addressing. The first has to do with water use in food production. Agriculture is a major industry in the United States and one of the biggest users of fresh water (as it is throughout the world). Technologies exist to dramatically reduce the amount of water required to produce food and fiber in this country, and yet many farmers shy away from these resources and stick to business as usual. But the time for business as usual has passed when it comes to water use. Federal and state governments should be willing to engage in both carrot-and-stick strategies to encourage farmers to reduce their water use right away, not at some distant time in the future.
The second major issue I’d like to see addressed legislatively relates to manufacturing. The government should hold manufacturers of all kinds to a higher standard for cleaning their wastewater before sending it into public treatment plants. For instance, the US Geological Survey recently released a survey pointing to significantly higher levels of contaminants showing up in areas where pharmaceuticals are produced. (emphasis added.) The long-term public health consequences of these contaminants in our water supply are unknown at this time, but I know I would rather get my drugs prescribed by a doctor than in my tap water.
How will water shortage in other areas of the world impact people in the US?
As part of global society, the impacts of water shortages from disease, food shortages, lack of economic development to conflicts between countries over international rivers will have a negative impact on our way of life.
What call to action would you like your readers to take away with them after they finish your book?
I hope that readers will realize that if they demand attention to these issues, politicians will listen. The biggest obstacle preventing Americans from taking proactive action to protect our long-term water security is political inertia from politicians who are reluctant to ask for appropriate funding to address our water and wastewater challenges. The good news is that we still have time to act to prevent a full-scale water crisis. The bad news is that very few decision-makers seem to feel the true urgency that exists for addressing these issues.
Running Out of Water is being offered for purchase through my Green Talk store, and thus GT makes a teeny amount of money from the sale.