This is a recording of the keynote speech from the “Resources Roundtable 2013: The Future of Urban Water,” an event hosted by the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative.
Peter Gleick is the President and Co-founder of the Pacific Institute, based in Oakland, CA. His speech was titled “An Audacious Vision for Water in the City of the Future.”
He also periodically writes a column on water issues for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Image from the report appendix
The Union of Concerned Scientists just released a new report on the effect of power plants on freshwater systems. “One plant had to curtail nighttime operations because the drought had reduced the amount of cool water available to bring down the temperature of water discharged from the plant,” the report says. It quotes Kent Saathoff, a vice president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, who said last month, “If we don’t get any rain between now and next summer, there could be several thousand megawatts of generators that won’t have sufficient cooling water to operate next summer” (New York Times Green Blog). You can read the entire report here. Sewage overflow is the No. 1 source of pollution for New York’s waterways, says Leif Percifield, a graduate student at the School of Art, Media, and Technology at the Parsons New School of Design… Percifield’s dream is to place simple sensors at each of New York City’s 490 “combined sewer overflow” points. The sensors will be primed to send out text-message notifications every time the city’s drainage maxes out (Grist). UC Berkeley has begun work in its quest to significantly taper its campuswide water use. The campus is aiming to cut its water usage by over 65 million gallons by 2020 (The Daily Californian).
(Image credit: flickr user heidi.nutters, via SPUR)
A recent report by SPUR entitled “Climate change hits home” addresses how we should plan to adapt to climate change in the Bay Area. The report includes a number of strategies to help local communities to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Some of the key impacts discussed in the report include:
- Higher average temperatures,
- Increased number of heat waves,
- Water uncertainty: droughts, extreme storms, flooding,
- An increased risk of wildfire, and
- Sea level rise.
The SPUR task force responsible for the report then considered how these impacts would affect various areas of planning in the Bay Area and proposed strategies to adapt to them.
The goal of the report is to get local agencies to begin to talk to one another to coordinate responses to climate change. Many of the adaptation strategies proposed in the report will also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – a real “win-win” overall.
A copy of the report is available for download from the SPUR website.
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Las Vegas, Nevada (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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24/7 Wall St. evaluated a couple recent studies (from Ceres and the NRDC) and also conducted some of its own analysis, focusing on the 30 largest American cities, to come up with the following list of 10 large American cities at the greatest risk of running out of water:
10. Orlando, FL
9. Atlanta, GA
8. Tucson, AZ
7. Las Vegas, NV
6. Fort Worth, TX
5. San Francisco Bay Area, CA
4. San Antonio, TX
3. Phoenix, AZ
2. Houston, TX
1. Los Angeles, CA
You can read more about their analysis and reasons for inclusion of each city here.
A note from Anna – I do not know much about 24/7 Wall St. or their track record on this sort of analysis. I think this sort of list is good for raising awareness that it is not just cities in the dry Southwest that are facing future water shortages. However, there are a few items in this article that gave me pause – first is the consistent misspelling of San Francisco as “San Fransisco”, second is the consistent listing of the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) as the “National Resources Defense Council.”
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“If we priced water accurately, there wouldn’t be any water shortages, period. It would eliminate, surely, 80 or 90 percent of the distributional problem,” says Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior under President Clinton. “We have essentially built a water supply culture in this country which says water should essentially be free. And you see the results in the way water is used, particularly in the arid regions of the west.” – via CNBC.
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Image credit: SEBAL North America
According to a recent press release, scientists at SEBAL North America, located in Davis, California, are tracking real-time consumption of water by crops, cities, and natural ecosystems using satellites.
This new technology, applicable to water management needs globally, reduces substantial uncertainties in traditional approaches, greatly increasing confidence in water management decisions. Grant Davids, the company’s president, notes the broad range of applications of SEBAL for water managers. “Water consumption is usually the most important yet often most poorly quantified water management parameter. More accurate and spatially discrete estimates of consumptive use lead to improved water management over a wide range of conditions, from local to basin scales and from historical analysis for planning to real-time operations decision support.”
The company will be providing weekly maps showing water use for the Central Valley. The company also makes image overlays that can be opened in Google Earth to allow users to look more closely at water use in specific areas. Maps and data can be found on the SEBAL website.
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