We all can do our part for the planet

From Bugs To Breakthroughs- My Path To Environmental Conflict Resolution  

By Deborah Dalton

Imagine a typical public meeting about a controversial local environmental issue, like a recycling center transfer station or preparation for coastal flooding– how did it go? Were people civil? Did they speak their hearts? Did they listen and seek ways to accommodate differences? Was there a decision as a result of the discussion, or a stalemate leaving everybody feeling frustrated?

Every environmental action or decision involves people and organizations who have a wide variety of experiences, approaches, opinions, and needs. EPA frequently navigates these diverse interests under our existing environmental laws.

For the last 30 years, it’s been my job, my calling and passion, to help my colleagues to seek out better, easier, faster ways to accommodate the varying needs of those who depend on us to protect the environment and public health. I’m a Conflict Resolution Specialist within the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center(CPRC). Our center provides expertise in the design and conduct of public involvement activities and in resolution of disputes for EPA.

I came to this calling in a very roundabout way, as most people do if they are lucky to be curious and flexible (and jobless with a master’s degree). In college, I was a social psychology major. After being inspired by evolutionary genetics in my senior year, I pursued graduate work and teaching in biology, and eventually got hired by EPA as an entomologist.

So, how did this lead to a calling in public engagement and dispute resolution? Well, as I worked on the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in another job at EPA, I was frustrated with a system that forced people into taking positions that were mutually exclusive and then asking a judge to pick one of the options. To me, it seemed to leave creativity off the table and to postpone real environmental progress.

Today, CPRC helps our colleagues navigating these types of conflicts and use communication effectively to craft creative solutions. I give my colleagues easy access to sound conflict resolution processes, including tools like mediators and facilitators, so they can focus on improving the science and policy of environmental protection.

My proudest accomplishment is my role in creating and professionalizing the field of environmental mediation and public involvement as a real, full-time career through the creation of two unique tools: a national EPA contract for hiring professional facilitators and mediators from the private sector and a searchable national roster of environmental facilitators and mediators.

While my career has not been that of a traditional environmentalist (or entomologist), I’ve found ways to use my skills and passion to advocate for creative environmental solutions that protect our communities.

About the author: Deb Dalton is currently a Senior Conflict Resolution Specialist in the EPA’s Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center.  She has worked at EPA since 1976 in programs including enforcement, pesticides, hazardous waste and regulatory policy before committing her career to public involvement and conflict resolution. 

[Read More …]

From Bugs To Breakthroughs- My Path To Environmental Conflict Resolution  

By Deborah Dalton

Imagine a typical public meeting about a controversial local environmental issue, like a recycling center transfer station or preparation for coastal flooding– how did it go? Were people civil? Did they speak their hearts? Did they listen and seek ways to accommodate differences? Was there a decision as a result of the discussion, or a stalemate leaving everybody feeling frustrated?

Every environmental action or decision involves people and organizations who have a wide variety of experiences, approaches, opinions, and needs. EPA frequently navigates these diverse interests under our existing environmental laws.

For the last 30 years, it’s been my job, my calling and passion, to help my colleagues to seek out better, easier, faster ways to accommodate the varying needs of those who depend on us to protect the environment and public health. I’m a Conflict Resolution Specialist within the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center(CPRC). Our center provides expertise in the design and conduct of public involvement activities and in resolution of disputes for EPA.

I came to this calling in a very roundabout way, as most people do if they are lucky to be curious and flexible (and jobless with a master’s degree). In college, I was a social psychology major. After being inspired by evolutionary genetics in my senior year, I pursued graduate work and teaching in biology, and eventually got hired by EPA as an entomologist.

So, how did this lead to a calling in public engagement and dispute resolution? Well, as I worked on the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in another job at EPA, I was frustrated with a system that forced people into taking positions that were mutually exclusive and then asking a judge to pick one of the options. To me, it seemed to leave creativity off the table and to postpone real environmental progress.

Today, CPRC helps our colleagues navigating these types of conflicts and use communication effectively to craft creative solutions. I give my colleagues easy access to sound conflict resolution processes, including tools like mediators and facilitators, so they can focus on improving the science and policy of environmental protection.

My proudest accomplishment is my role in creating and professionalizing the field of environmental mediation and public involvement as a real, full-time career through the creation of two unique tools: a national EPA contract for hiring professional facilitators and mediators from the private sector and a searchable national roster of environmental facilitators and mediators.

While my career has not been that of a traditional environmentalist (or entomologist), I’ve found ways to use my skills and passion to advocate for creative environmental solutions that protect our communities.

About the author: Deb Dalton is currently a Senior Conflict Resolution Specialist in the EPA’s Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center.  She has worked at EPA since 1976 in programs including enforcement, pesticides, hazardous waste and regulatory policy before committing her career to public involvement and conflict resolution. 

[Read More …]

From Bugs To Breakthroughs- My Path To Environmental Conflict Resolution  

By Deborah Dalton

Imagine a typical public meeting about a controversial local environmental issue, like a recycling center transfer station or preparation for coastal flooding– how did it go? Were people civil? Did they speak their hearts? Did they listen and seek ways to accommodate differences? Was there a decision as a result of the discussion, or a stalemate leaving everybody feeling frustrated?

Every environmental action or decision involves people and organizations who have a wide variety of experiences, approaches, opinions, and needs. EPA frequently navigates these diverse interests under our existing environmental laws.

For the last 30 years, it’s been my job, my calling and passion, to help my colleagues to seek out better, easier, faster ways to accommodate the varying needs of those who depend on us to protect the environment and public health. I’m a Conflict Resolution Specialist within the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center(CPRC). Our center provides expertise in the design and conduct of public involvement activities and in resolution of disputes for EPA.

I came to this calling in a very roundabout way, as most people do if they are lucky to be curious and flexible (and jobless with a master’s degree). In college, I was a social psychology major. After being inspired by evolutionary genetics in my senior year, I pursued graduate work and teaching in biology, and eventually got hired by EPA as an entomologist.

So, how did this lead to a calling in public engagement and dispute resolution? Well, as I worked on the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in another job at EPA, I was frustrated with a system that forced people into taking positions that were mutually exclusive and then asking a judge to pick one of the options. To me, it seemed to leave creativity off the table and to postpone real environmental progress.

Today, CPRC helps our colleagues navigating these types of conflicts and use communication effectively to craft creative solutions. I give my colleagues easy access to sound conflict resolution processes, including tools like mediators and facilitators, so they can focus on improving the science and policy of environmental protection.

My proudest accomplishment is my role in creating and professionalizing the field of environmental mediation and public involvement as a real, full-time career through the creation of two unique tools: a national EPA contract for hiring professional facilitators and mediators from the private sector and a searchable national roster of environmental facilitators and mediators.

While my career has not been that of a traditional environmentalist (or entomologist), I’ve found ways to use my skills and passion to advocate for creative environmental solutions that protect our communities.

About the author: Deb Dalton is currently a Senior Conflict Resolution Specialist in the EPA’s Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center.  She has worked at EPA since 1976 in programs including enforcement, pesticides, hazardous waste and regulatory policy before committing her career to public involvement and conflict resolution. 

[Read More …]

Water works: how a simple technology in Dhaka is changing the way people get clean water

Amy Pickering laughs when she thinks of all the things that went wrong with the impact evaluation she recently completed of a water chlorination project in the slums of Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka: delays, monsoons, and more delays.

“It was the hardest project I’ve ever done,” says the seasoned research engineer, now a professor at Tufts University, who was working on a project funded through the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund.  

Clean water is an issue in Dhaka and other overcrowded cities in the region, where contamination by bacteria can lead to high rates of diarrhea, harming children’s growth and health. For Pickering, who specializes in water quality and diarrheal disease, the challenge was finding a water treatment technology that could work without electricity and operate in Dhaka’s extreme weather. 

Amy Pickering, a professor at Tufts University, working on a water chlorination project in the slums of Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka

Together with Stanford University’s Stephen Luby, Pickering assessed a novel treatment product that automatically dispenses small amounts of chlorine to create safe drinking water.  The dispensers were installed at strategic water points – usually communal handpumps — that typically serve anywhere from 10 to 100 families.

The impact evaluation study provides critical evidence on how to use simple, low-cost technology to make water safe in dense, urban areas that lack reliable energy sources. Results of the evaluation are expected in Fall 2017.  

In a recent conversation with SIEF, Pickering talked about the problem with pipes in Dhaka, the business of clean water, and what’s on her mind every time she goes to the faucet.
 
Why focus on individual water pointsin this case, handpumps or taps in communal areasrather than create a centralized solution before the water is pumped to these water points?
In many urban areas across the developing world, there’s not enough water to meet demand and so water is sent to different parts of the system during different hours of the day. Because the system isn’t fully pressurized at all times, contamination and sewage seep into the system. The solution, therefore, couldn’t be centralized. 
 
What are ‘point of collection’ treatments and how are they different from what’s already out there?
There’s been a push to get individual families who rely on shared water sources to treat their own water supply—called treating at the point-of-use—but it hasn’t been very successful. These programs focus on getting households to add their own chlorine manually, but that involves people buying their own chlorine, calculating the correct dosage, and remembering to add the chlorine daily. We wanted to try something that was automated and required minimal effort. This way, people filling containers with water don’t have to do anything to make it clean. Safe water out of the tap becomes the default.
  
What was the process like?  
It turns out getting the system up and running was more difficult than I imagined. To start, I assumed that we’d be able to find an off-the-shelf technology that we’d be able to customize. But nothing existed that would work without electricity, in high temperatures, and in the extreme weather conditions of monsoon season in Bangladesh. We eventually got in contact with Medentech, an Irish company. They had already designed a chlorine doser for animals, and were in the process of adapting it for people and so we partnered with them for the evaluation. It’s a very simple technology that doesn’t require electricity.  The chlorine refills are simple and safe to swap in and out.

Are residents willing or able to pay?
This evaluation got us thinking about that very question. The water points were in public locations in one of the study sites, but in the second study site they were all located on private compounds, and so we started working on another project to determine how much landlords would be willing to pay for clean water.  We developed marketing materials and a sales pitch to landlords, showing that they could recover their costs by advertising safe water and charging higher rents. Landlords were able to bid to have the clean water service in their compound if: they bid high enough, they won the auction, and got the device installed with the chlorine refill service. We structured it to help us understand the business model that would work for scaling up. So far, it looks like landlords are willing to pay around $50 per year for the service. We don’t have an estimate yet for total cost of installing and operating the chlorine dispenser at scale, but the $50 should cover a bulk of the cost. 
 
What was it like getting landlords interested?
We had to convince them that chlorine water is safe and that it’s used throughout the developing world. We did taste experiments to see what level of chlorine could be detected because we didn’t want the residents to be turned off by the taste of chlorine.
 
What’s next?
We plan to disseminate the results to the Bangladesh government and other organizations working on increasing access to safe water later this summer with the hopes that they are interested in implementing the chlorine dosers. We are also now expanding the project to roadside water stands in Kenya, and working on a business model that would work in other countries.
 
Finally, does this make you think more about the water you drink?
This research definitely increased my awareness of water quality and safety, even in my home town. Public water in developed countries is generally very safe, but there are still contaminants, like lead, and I do sometimes worry about that when my kids drink. I am so grateful that I can just go to the sink and get a glass of clean water!

Tweet these:

[Read More …]

Water works: how a simple technology in Dhaka is changing the way people get clean water

Amy Pickering laughs when she thinks of all the things that went wrong with the impact evaluation she recently completed of a water chlorination project in the slums of Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka: delays, monsoons, and more delays.

“It was the hardest project I’ve ever done,” says the seasoned research engineer, now a professor at Tufts University, who was working on a project funded through the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund.  

Clean water is an issue in Dhaka and other overcrowded cities in the region, where contamination by bacteria can lead to high rates of diarrhea, harming children’s growth and health. For Pickering, who specializes in water quality and diarrheal disease, the challenge was finding a water treatment technology that could work without electricity and operate in Dhaka’s extreme weather. 

Amy Pickering, a professor at Tufts University, working on a water chlorination project in the slums of Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka

Together with Stanford University’s Stephen Luby, Pickering assessed a novel treatment product that automatically dispenses small amounts of chlorine to create safe drinking water.  The dispensers were installed at strategic water points – usually communal handpumps — that typically serve anywhere from 10 to 100 families.

The impact evaluation study provides critical evidence on how to use simple, low-cost technology to make water safe in dense, urban areas that lack reliable energy sources. Results of the evaluation are expected in Fall 2017.  

In a recent conversation with SIEF, Pickering talked about the problem with pipes in Dhaka, the business of clean water, and what’s on her mind every time she goes to the faucet.
 
Why focus on individual water pointsin this case, handpumps or taps in communal areasrather than create a centralized solution before the water is pumped to these water points?
In many urban areas across the developing world, there’s not enough water to meet demand and so water is sent to different parts of the system during different hours of the day. Because the system isn’t fully pressurized at all times, contamination and sewage seep into the system. The solution, therefore, couldn’t be centralized. 
 
What are ‘point of collection’ treatments and how are they different from what’s already out there?
There’s been a push to get individual families who rely on shared water sources to treat their own water supply—called treating at the point-of-use—but it hasn’t been very successful. These programs focus on getting households to add their own chlorine manually, but that involves people buying their own chlorine, calculating the correct dosage, and remembering to add the chlorine daily. We wanted to try something that was automated and required minimal effort. This way, people filling containers with water don’t have to do anything to make it clean. Safe water out of the tap becomes the default.
  
What was the process like?  
It turns out getting the system up and running was more difficult than I imagined. To start, I assumed that we’d be able to find an off-the-shelf technology that we’d be able to customize. But nothing existed that would work without electricity, in high temperatures, and in the extreme weather conditions of monsoon season in Bangladesh. We eventually got in contact with Medentech, an Irish company. They had already designed a chlorine doser for animals, and were in the process of adapting it for people and so we partnered with them for the evaluation. It’s a very simple technology that doesn’t require electricity.  The chlorine refills are simple and safe to swap in and out.

Are residents willing or able to pay?
This evaluation got us thinking about that very question. The water points were in public locations in one of the study sites, but in the second study site they were all located on private compounds, and so we started working on another project to determine how much landlords would be willing to pay for clean water.  We developed marketing materials and a sales pitch to landlords, showing that they could recover their costs by advertising safe water and charging higher rents. Landlords were able to bid to have the clean water service in their compound if: they bid high enough, they won the auction, and got the device installed with the chlorine refill service. We structured it to help us understand the business model that would work for scaling up. So far, it looks like landlords are willing to pay around $50 per year for the service. We don’t have an estimate yet for total cost of installing and operating the chlorine dispenser at scale, but the $50 should cover a bulk of the cost. 
 
What was it like getting landlords interested?
We had to convince them that chlorine water is safe and that it’s used throughout the developing world. We did taste experiments to see what level of chlorine could be detected because we didn’t want the residents to be turned off by the taste of chlorine.
 
What’s next?
We plan to disseminate the results to the Bangladesh government and other organizations working on increasing access to safe water later this summer with the hopes that they are interested in implementing the chlorine dosers. We are also now expanding the project to roadside water stands in Kenya, and working on a business model that would work in other countries.
 
Finally, does this make you think more about the water you drink?
This research definitely increased my awareness of water quality and safety, even in my home town. Public water in developed countries is generally very safe, but there are still contaminants, like lead, and I do sometimes worry about that when my kids drink. I am so grateful that I can just go to the sink and get a glass of clean water!

Tweet these:

[Read More …]

Water works: how a simple technology in Dhaka is changing the way people get clean water

Amy Pickering laughs when she thinks of all the things that went wrong with the impact evaluation she recently completed of a water chlorination project in the slums of Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka: delays, monsoons, and more delays.

“It was the hardest project I’ve ever done,” says the seasoned research engineer, now a professor at Tufts University, who was working on a project funded through the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund.  

Clean water is an issue in Dhaka and other overcrowded cities in the region, where contamination by bacteria can lead to high rates of diarrhea, harming children’s growth and health. For Pickering, who specializes in water quality and diarrheal disease, the challenge was finding a water treatment technology that could work without electricity and operate in Dhaka’s extreme weather. 

Amy Pickering, a professor at Tufts University, working on a water chlorination project in the slums of Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka

Together with Stanford University’s Stephen Luby, Pickering assessed a novel treatment product that automatically dispenses small amounts of chlorine to create safe drinking water.  The dispensers were installed at strategic water points – usually communal handpumps — that typically serve anywhere from 10 to 100 families.

The impact evaluation study provides critical evidence on how to use simple, low-cost technology to make water safe in dense, urban areas that lack reliable energy sources. Results of the evaluation are expected in Fall 2017.  

In a recent conversation with SIEF, Pickering talked about the problem with pipes in Dhaka, the business of clean water, and what’s on her mind every time she goes to the faucet.
 
Why focus on individual water pointsin this case, handpumps or taps in communal areasrather than create a centralized solution before the water is pumped to these water points?
In many urban areas across the developing world, there’s not enough water to meet demand and so water is sent to different parts of the system during different hours of the day. Because the system isn’t fully pressurized at all times, contamination and sewage seep into the system. The solution, therefore, couldn’t be centralized. 
 
What are ‘point of collection’ treatments and how are they different from what’s already out there?
There’s been a push to get individual families who rely on shared water sources to treat their own water supply—called treating at the point-of-use—but it hasn’t been very successful. These programs focus on getting households to add their own chlorine manually, but that involves people buying their own chlorine, calculating the correct dosage, and remembering to add the chlorine daily. We wanted to try something that was automated and required minimal effort. This way, people filling containers with water don’t have to do anything to make it clean. Safe water out of the tap becomes the default.
  
What was the process like?  
It turns out getting the system up and running was more difficult than I imagined. To start, I assumed that we’d be able to find an off-the-shelf technology that we’d be able to customize. But nothing existed that would work without electricity, in high temperatures, and in the extreme weather conditions of monsoon season in Bangladesh. We eventually got in contact with Medentech, an Irish company. They had already designed a chlorine doser for animals, and were in the process of adapting it for people and so we partnered with them for the evaluation. It’s a very simple technology that doesn’t require electricity.  The chlorine refills are simple and safe to swap in and out.

Are residents willing or able to pay?
This evaluation got us thinking about that very question. The water points were in public locations in one of the study sites, but in the second study site they were all located on private compounds, and so we started working on another project to determine how much landlords would be willing to pay for clean water.  We developed marketing materials and a sales pitch to landlords, showing that they could recover their costs by advertising safe water and charging higher rents. Landlords were able to bid to have the clean water service in their compound if: they bid high enough, they won the auction, and got the device installed with the chlorine refill service. We structured it to help us understand the business model that would work for scaling up. So far, it looks like landlords are willing to pay around $50 per year for the service. We don’t have an estimate yet for total cost of installing and operating the chlorine dispenser at scale, but the $50 should cover a bulk of the cost. 
 
What was it like getting landlords interested?
We had to convince them that chlorine water is safe and that it’s used throughout the developing world. We did taste experiments to see what level of chlorine could be detected because we didn’t want the residents to be turned off by the taste of chlorine.
 
What’s next?
We plan to disseminate the results to the Bangladesh government and other organizations working on increasing access to safe water later this summer with the hopes that they are interested in implementing the chlorine dosers. We are also now expanding the project to roadside water stands in Kenya, and working on a business model that would work in other countries.
 
Finally, does this make you think more about the water you drink?
This research definitely increased my awareness of water quality and safety, even in my home town. Public water in developed countries is generally very safe, but there are still contaminants, like lead, and I do sometimes worry about that when my kids drink. I am so grateful that I can just go to the sink and get a glass of clean water!

Tweet these:

[Read More …]

Water Re-Use Proposes Huge Gains for California Water Reserves

California’s use of recycled wastewater has increased since 2009, rising by nearly 45,000 acre-feet. The increase has been so substantial in fact, that in 2015, recycled water yield surpassed 700,000 acre-feet – an impressive amount of growth over a period of just six years. 

For some people, especially the many water recycling and reuse advocates, these numbers are disappointing. Some had hoped that the yield and the subsequent growth would have been much higher than was has transpired. Fortunately, the projection for future forward growth is estimated to exceed one million acre-feet of water in the coming years. This substantial yield is targeted to enhance the supply of drinking water as well as mitigate the need to use clean, potable water, to meet irrigation needs of agriculture and industry demands. 

Much to the pleasure of water recycling and reuse advocates, some information reflected in the less than anticipated water yield results survey may have been misrepresented. Taking into consideration all of the components reflects that California’s recent droughts and water conservation initiatives may have heavily skewed the reflection of the capabilities of the water recycling and reuse industry over the course of years past.

For instance, the recycling and reuse of water was measured during the years in which California suffered immense drought. The government mandated water conservation caused water usage to be reduced by an impressive 25%. However, the reduction of water use subsequently caused a reduction in the availability and supply of wastewater, thus reducing the overall possible yield of recycled wastewater inevitably. 

Also, a major factor in the halt of substantial growth in recycled water yield is due to the economic challenges the state faces. While water initiatives are well supported socially and from an environmental standpoint, financially the funds just haven’t been available to move forward. The support of the community and the knowledge for implementation will only take a project so far – eventually, the potential for growth and the final outcome is dependent upon the availability of finances sufficient to support the initiative. 

With the majority of water recycling and reuse projects taking place in seasonal irrigation efforts, the capabilities aren’t being used to their full potential – and water authorities and conservation advocates are aware. Taking main focus for future conservation endeavors is treatment and reuse of household potable water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene practice. Such usage is steady year-round, lending more potential to increase reuse yields. 

With initiatives for water conservation as valuable as they are to California’s future, one thing is certain: water recycling will become a common household practice. With sufficient funding and the community’s continued support, water recycling and reuse will secure a more solid and sustainable future for California for the foreseeable future and generations to come.  

Interested in learning more about advanced water treatment technologies that can help sustain water conservation efforts? Contact us today. 
 

Learn More

[Read More …]

Water Re-Use Proposes Huge Gains for California Water Reserves

California’s use of recycled wastewater has increased since 2009, rising by nearly 45,000 acre-feet. The increase has been so substantial in fact, that in 2015, recycled water yield surpassed 700,000 acre-feet – an impressive amount of growth over a period of just six years. 

For some people, especially the many water recycling and reuse advocates, these numbers are disappointing. Some had hoped that the yield and the subsequent growth would have been much higher than was has transpired. Fortunately, the projection for future forward growth is estimated to exceed one million acre-feet of water in the coming years. This substantial yield is targeted to enhance the supply of drinking water as well as mitigate the need to use clean, potable water, to meet irrigation needs of agriculture and industry demands. 

Much to the pleasure of water recycling and reuse advocates, some information reflected in the less than anticipated water yield results survey may have been misrepresented. Taking into consideration all of the components reflects that California’s recent droughts and water conservation initiatives may have heavily skewed the reflection of the capabilities of the water recycling and reuse industry over the course of years past.

For instance, the recycling and reuse of water was measured during the years in which California suffered immense drought. The government mandated water conservation caused water usage to be reduced by an impressive 25%. However, the reduction of water use subsequently caused a reduction in the availability and supply of wastewater, thus reducing the overall possible yield of recycled wastewater inevitably. 

Also, a major factor in the halt of substantial growth in recycled water yield is due to the economic challenges the state faces. While water initiatives are well supported socially and from an environmental standpoint, financially the funds just haven’t been available to move forward. The support of the community and the knowledge for implementation will only take a project so far – eventually, the potential for growth and the final outcome is dependent upon the availability of finances sufficient to support the initiative. 

With the majority of water recycling and reuse projects taking place in seasonal irrigation efforts, the capabilities aren’t being used to their full potential – and water authorities and conservation advocates are aware. Taking main focus for future conservation endeavors is treatment and reuse of household potable water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene practice. Such usage is steady year-round, lending more potential to increase reuse yields. 

With initiatives for water conservation as valuable as they are to California’s future, one thing is certain: water recycling will become a common household practice. With sufficient funding and the community’s continued support, water recycling and reuse will secure a more solid and sustainable future for California for the foreseeable future and generations to come.  

Interested in learning more about advanced water treatment technologies that can help sustain water conservation efforts? Contact us today. 
 

Learn More

[Read More …]

Water Re-Use Proposes Huge Gains for California Water Reserves

California’s use of recycled wastewater has increased since 2009, rising by nearly 45,000 acre-feet. The increase has been so substantial in fact, that in 2015, recycled water yield surpassed 700,000 acre-feet – an impressive amount of growth over a period of just six years. 

For some people, especially the many water recycling and reuse advocates, these numbers are disappointing. Some had hoped that the yield and the subsequent growth would have been much higher than was has transpired. Fortunately, the projection for future forward growth is estimated to exceed one million acre-feet of water in the coming years. This substantial yield is targeted to enhance the supply of drinking water as well as mitigate the need to use clean, potable water, to meet irrigation needs of agriculture and industry demands. 

Much to the pleasure of water recycling and reuse advocates, some information reflected in the less than anticipated water yield results survey may have been misrepresented. Taking into consideration all of the components reflects that California’s recent droughts and water conservation initiatives may have heavily skewed the reflection of the capabilities of the water recycling and reuse industry over the course of years past.

For instance, the recycling and reuse of water was measured during the years in which California suffered immense drought. The government mandated water conservation caused water usage to be reduced by an impressive 25%. However, the reduction of water use subsequently caused a reduction in the availability and supply of wastewater, thus reducing the overall possible yield of recycled wastewater inevitably. 

Also, a major factor in the halt of substantial growth in recycled water yield is due to the economic challenges the state faces. While water initiatives are well supported socially and from an environmental standpoint, financially the funds just haven’t been available to move forward. The support of the community and the knowledge for implementation will only take a project so far – eventually, the potential for growth and the final outcome is dependent upon the availability of finances sufficient to support the initiative. 

With the majority of water recycling and reuse projects taking place in seasonal irrigation efforts, the capabilities aren’t being used to their full potential – and water authorities and conservation advocates are aware. Taking main focus for future conservation endeavors is treatment and reuse of household potable water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene practice. Such usage is steady year-round, lending more potential to increase reuse yields. 

With initiatives for water conservation as valuable as they are to California’s future, one thing is certain: water recycling will become a common household practice. With sufficient funding and the community’s continued support, water recycling and reuse will secure a more solid and sustainable future for California for the foreseeable future and generations to come.  

Interested in learning more about advanced water treatment technologies that can help sustain water conservation efforts? Contact us today. 
 

Learn More

[Read More …]

Managing water better is central to attaining our development goals

Rainwater harvesting for drip irrigation, Lake Victoria, Tanzania.
Photo credit: Wisions.net

Everybody depends on it; there is no substitute for it if we run out; in some places, it’s more valuable than oil. Freshwater is at the very core of human development: it is inextricably linked to food security, economic growth, and poverty reduction.

At face value, water use for food production today largely occurs at the expense of ecosystems, which is the number one reason for their rapid degradation. Already, a quarter of the world’s major rivers no longer reach the ocean.

According to a new study published by Nature Communications, about 40% of global irrigation water is used unsustainably and violates life-supporting environmental flows of rivers. To achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, these water volumes need to be re-allocated to the ecosystem, which puts a heavy strain on current agricultural water use: food production would drop by at least 10% on half of all irrigated land, with losses of 20-30% at the country level, especially in Central and South Asia.

At the same time, SDG 2 is dedicated to food security, and aims at doubling agricultural productivity. This twin challenge of reconciling water and food targets is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It was brought to the highest political level earlier this month through the Hamburg G20 Leaders´ Declaration: “Towards Food Security [and] Water Sustainability : we are committed to increase agricultural productivity and resilience in a sustainable manner, while aiming to protect, manage, and use efficiently water and water-related ecosystems”.

Irrigation is central to feeding the world but often is plagued by excessive and leaky water use. On average, about 50% of irrigation water is lost in transfer and application. The new study also demonstrates that the transition to more efficient systems can substantially reduce water consumption per unit of crop growth, especially in countries with large-scale surface irrigation systems and unlined canals, like Pakistan, Uzbekistan, or Bangladesh. In Tajikistan, environmental flow constraints imply a 15% loss of food production, but a change from surface to sprinkler systems could compensate for such losses.

While irrigation can be improved, rainwater management is the largest untapped opportunity to tackle the water-food security challenge. Smallholder farmers still produce more than half of the world’s food; often it is not the total volume, but the unreliable and erratic rainfall that poses the greatest problems. Water harvesting, for instance, is an effective traditional, yet widely underexplored measure to collect and store excess rainwater for supplemental irrigation during dry spells. Conservation tillage and mulching – crop residues or plastic films covering the soil surface – are additional rainwater management techniques that help alleviate soil evaporation.

In semi-arid farming systems, such simple interventions can prevent crop failure, sustainably double crop yields, and strengthen climate resilience, directly improving livelihoods of the poor. While these traditional and affordable farming practices are sporadically applied – for instance in the African Sahel – they can be scaled up, particularly in regions where both population and food demand is growing fast.

Drip irrigation lines being installed for lettuce in the
Salinas Valley, California, US.
Photo credit: Tim Hartz, UC Cooperative Extension

In summary, the paper presents data showing that better irrigation systems can compensate for food production losses. Combined with optimizing the use of rainwater, food production can even see a 10% global net gain — with regional gains often over 20% — suggesting that the potential of farm water management interventions is well beyond what we expected.

In the context of the SDG discussion, however, these strategies remain largely unexplored and certainly merit higher political attention. In fact, farm water management turns out to be a pivotal target in supporting the implementation of the ambitious yet conflicting SDG agenda.

After all, water management alone will not suffice to attain both SDG 2 and 6. But mainstreaming simple water management measures can have sizeable effects, and the 2030 Agenda could start to fall into place without relying on future technology fixes.

Article: Jägermeyr, J., Pastor, A., Biemans, H. and Gerten, D. (2017): Reconciling irrigated food production with environmental flows for Sustainable Development Goals implementation. Nature Communications.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author alone. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Bank.

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