Cycle of Insanity, the real story of water

Earth | | February 28, 2011 at 14:36

Freshwater is precious, yet we manage freshwater by promoting one-time use, then divert the used water to the ocean, often polluting our ocean and beaches.  When it rains, we use gutters and hard surfaces to rush the water to the ocean, often causing flooding, instead of directing run-off to natural watersheds and water storage containers. When water is scarce, we seek to purchase more from other cities, and we think of building a desalination plant. We can do better. We can have more freshwater and cleaner oceans and beaches. We need to understand how to better manage freshwater and wastewater.

The Surfrider Foundation has created a video that connects the impacts of our current water “management” system to coastal issues and offers common sense solutions to illustrate how we can make progress toward sustainability in water and wastewater management, “The Cycle of Insanity, The Real Story of Water.” Please watch the video or scroll through the Powerpoint/slide show/script to learn how to reuse our precious water.

The Cycle of Insanity

The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water from Surfrider Foundation on Vimeo.

The film uses the model of the water cycle as a template, then explains the current style of water management and explores what the ideal water management system would look like, with localized water treatment plants, neighborhoods, and cities that incorporate native plant life and filtration systems. It shows how smart water management can eliminate unnecessary run-off, encourage reuse, provide a buffer against storms and other so-called “natural” disasters, and improve the aesthetics and livability of our communities. About 50% of the water used inside U.S. homes can be reused to irrigate landscapes and flush toilets, according to a greywater report by the Oakland-based Pacific Institute. (Read the full report)

In fact, according to Heal the Ocean,  “In California, 43 wastewater treatment facilities discharge approximately 1.35 billion gallons daily (~1.5 million acre feet per year (AFY)) of treated effluent directly into the Pacific Ocean,” We are throwing away our water, a precious resource, as well as polluting the ocean. We can both recycle wastewater as well as capture and use storm water.

Heal the Ocean’s Executive Director, Hillary Hauser, explains the mission of Santa Barbara’s non-profit ocean protector in this informative YouTube.

Many agree water can be re-used over and over when recycled for agriculture purposes. Yet, technology is available to treat wastewater a step further to drinking standards. Sound impossible? Both Orange County, California and Scottsdale, Arizona already have these water treatment systems in place and running successfully. Also, Richard Santos reports in the San Jose Mercury News, (November 10, 2010), that the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant are building a new water treatment facility that will produce up to 10 million gallons of highly purified water per day. Santos states that three additional advanced treatment stages (microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultra-violet disinfection) will result in producing water that’s as pure or purer than most potable water sources. (See News Article and Other Resources)

Marine Sanctuary designation would provide the communities of San Luis Obispo County with coordinated educational efforts to learn how to reduce, re-use, and recycle water to save money and protect our local coastal waters from pollution flowing into the ocean ecosystems. We can have more freshwater, cleaner oceans and beaches, and less flooding by implementing better freshwater and wastewater management.

According to the Surfrider Foundation, “We’ve done everything in our power to force much-needed water off the land and now our water managers want to pump that water back out of the ocean to remove the salt—killing fish in the process and wasting tons of energy. We’re left with an un-coordinated, poorly managed, wasteful, polluting water system. That’s the cycle of insanity!”

Carol Georgi is a volunteer and contributor to
Karl Kempton is a former Energy Planner for San Luis Obispo County and Lead Author of “Proposed Central Coast National Marine Sanctuary, 1990.”

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