Archive for May 2014
We’re experiencing a drought here in California. While it seems like the rest of the country is constantly getting pelted with snow and rain in unprecedented levels, I can barely remember the last time it rained here. Even when there isn’t a drought, Southern California only averages about 12″ of rain per year. The fact that 14 million people can live in an environment that only provides 12″ of rain per year is a testament to the engineering marvels of last century that made it possible to get water from where it is, to where it ain’t. As I’ve said in previous Blogs water isn’t an issue of ACTUAL scarcity, its an issue of GEOGRAPHIC scarcity. Based on the numbers I’ve read, there’s enough water on this planet to support tens of billions of people. The issue is getting it to them at a reasonable cost. As early settlers, humans ALWAYS formed cities close to water. The idea of living where water is not naturally present nearby is a relatively recent phenomena based on the ability of human ingenuity to buck nature and get water to wherever we want it.
But at some point, especially during drought conditions, even our ingenuity won’t be enough to overcome growth constraints. Or will it?
I don’t know enough about the science of this concept so I won’t go into that, but I think the idea should be introduced here because there are already real scientists claiming that its possible. I’m talking about direct reuse.
Currently, Southern California gets its water from the North. Through an amazing engineering feat in the early 1900’s, we created a several hundred mile aqueduct that diverts water to us from Northern California. Essentially all the water the 14 million of us use, comes from far away. We use it, treat it, and put it back into the ground, where it becomes a part of the never ending recycling process of water from the ground, to the ocean, to the sky as vapor, and back to the ground as rain. We intervene between when it hits the ground as rain or snow and use it for our purposes before we return it to the process. If the rain or snow stops or slows way down, as in a drought, we get screwed. Because we’re merely “part” of the flow of water, if that flow slows down, we get less water to use. It can not only alter the lifestyle of those that already live here, but it can severely curtail the ability to grow in the future, for obvious reasons.
But what if instead of being a part of the flow of water through its natural recycling process, we alter the whole cycle?
What if instead of treating the water we use and sending it on its natural way, we treat the water and “directly recycle” it right back to ourselves to use again and again? According to the folks at the DWP, its a realistic concept. Currently all the rain, (a whopping 12″ per year in normal years) falls to the ground and ends up as ground water or in the maze of storm drains that ends up in the ocean. As I said before all the water we get from up north ends up in basically the same spots after we use it. If we captured all that water, and that’s a LOT of water if you think about it, treated it to the same level of purity it had when it arrived, we may solve all our water problems. Even in a drought.
According to the folks at the DWP, its not a scientific issue to make this a reality, its a perception issue. Telling the general public that the water they’re drinking is the same water that used to be in their toilet is a challenging prospect to say the least. In reality much of the water from the north was probably in someone else’s toilet prior to it getting here but we’ve convinced ourselves that the further removed the water is from where it was before, makes the odds it has bad things in it more remote. The bright minds that understand this, dispute that logic. To them its simply a matter of treatment and purification. Another process. A process that shortcuts Mother Natures process. It wouldn’t be the first time that human ingenuity has done this.
I just learned of this concept last week. I’ll study it this month and talk about it, and what homebuilders can do to help this concept, in next months Blog