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Just how valuable do we think water really is?

July 26 2009 | Water, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

Every few months I get a call from the same very, very... very concerned farmer. Honestly, I dread the call because no matter how hard I try to have a sharing, give-and-take dialog with him... it always seems to unravel. I understand and empathize with his perspective. He's a farmer. Farmers need water to grow the food we all eat. From his perspective most/all environmentalists would rather divert water to save a fish instead of letting a child drink it. That's where our conversation breaks down. From his perspective we (anyone with an environmentally-oriented worldview) put something like the health of a fish above the survival of a child.

Our disconnect is illustrative of how our society is out of sync on major issues.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal popped out at me as it succinctly addressed this issue and unpacked it a bit. In particular one quote addressed this disconnect very nicely.

The real issue, at least in the developed world, isn't about the amount of water it's about how we're using that water. Now you may react to this with a "duh... of course." But I don't think the population as a whole gets this point at all.

Today in most places of the developed world we plant our yards and public spaces with plants that don't belong there... plants that require more water than indigenous plants. Then we water them with arguably the most precious natural resource on the globe... pure, drinking water.

And of course this issue isn't solved just by putting in ocean-friendly gardens as we also use that super-precious resource, drinking water, for washing our cars, hosing down the driveways, etc.

Check out this video out on this subject... simple, to the point, funny.


I know the water issue will continue to heat up. It's timely and important enough that my daughter's school studies the question "who owns water?" as an overarching, umbrella question that all the ninth grade subjects try to address with their curriculum. I also realize that there will be fights over water and even wars over water... and as oddly as it sounds I welcome that increased tension. Of course I hope tension doesn't rise to the level of wars or violence... I simply feel that we are out of sync with the economic characteristics of our natural resources.

We're not suggesting we deprive a child to save a fish, we're suggesting we're insane for pouring our most precious resource down the drain. We're suggesting that we embrace a more long-term approach to integrated water use.

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