Water wars here and abroad

July 10, 2015
I’m glad that the month of June is over here in Chicago since Illinois had its wettest month in history. I wish we could send some of that rain to California.

I’m glad that the month of June is over here in Chicago since Illinois had its wettest month in history. I wish we could send some of that rain to California.

As usual, building water use has borne the brunt of water conservation regulations in California. The Associated Press has reported that California cities reduced water usage by 29% in May, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. Lately, agriculture, too, has also come under curtailment orders, which I believe is the prudent thing to do.

I’m getting the feeling that there are those in the plumbing industry who feel that California, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy have wrung all the water out of the industry that there is to give. If we try to reduce water flow any more, plumbing and wastewater systems will fail in their purposes of sanitation and hygiene.

I’m also irritated that bottled water companies continue to pump water from California aquifers in the midst of this drought. The bottled water companies have attracted protests, which led the International Bottled Water Association to release a new YouTube video detailing facts about bottle water use in California, 8 Things You Need to Know About Bottled Water in California.  The bottled water association says that 100 percent of the contents of a bottle are meant for consumption and that it’s the nation’s healthiest drink. They note that bottled water has the lowest water and energy use of any drink sold.

That’s not the point. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve drunk plenty of bottled water, but you don’t need to pump it out of the desert. Come to the Midwest. We have more than we can use.

The other thing that got me thinking about water recently was the encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato Si. The Pope has a number of things to say about clean water.

The Pope writes, “One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.

“Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing,” the encyclical continues, “in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries, which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behavior within a context of great inequality.”

You’ll have the opportunity to hear much more about clean water for the poor from Doc Hendley, the keynoter at this October’s Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association CONNECT 2015 event. Doc was a North Carolina bartender who got involved in the issue of clean water supply for the impoverished. Doc was sent to South Sudan by the charity Samaritan’s Purse to help bring clean water to villagers and refugees. It was an endeavor that got Doc shot at more than once and nearly killed.

I’ve heard Doc speak before. You’ll want to hear him on October 1.

About the Author

Robert P. Mader

Bob Mader is the Editorial Director for Penton's mechanical systems brands, including CONTRACTOR magazine, Contracting Business and HPAC Engineering, all of which are part of Penton’s Energy and Buildings Group. He has been  with CONTRACTOR since 1984 and with Penton since 2001. His passions are helping contractors improve their businesses, saving energy and the issue of safeguarding our drinking water. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with an A.B. in American Studies with a Communications Concentration.

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