The Dry Garden: In search of a ‘water ethic’ for America

Most high-level arguments about how to conserve water in the garden take place without involving home gardeners. Rather, as water managers weigh what an imaginary average consumer would and would not do by way of conservation, we real-life consumers are alternately offered carrots in the form of ephemeral rebate programs and sticks in the form of emergency sprinkler ordinances. 

The new book, “Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis,”  knocks this tired see-saw off its axis. Author Cynthia Barnett argues that no conservation program will truly succeed unless embraced by the public as part of a universally adopted “water ethic.” After research took her across the US, to the Netherlands, Singapore and Australia, Barnett concluded that the only way that a water ethic can be reintroduced to places that have lost it is if a primal sense of the importance and beauty of water is restored. 

It’s unorthodox to

Waiting for ‘catastrophe’

"Today’s system of water management, developed in previous times for past conditions, is leading the state down a path of environmental and economic deterioration. We’re waiting for the next drought, flood, or lawsuit to bring catastrophe,” says Ellen Hanak, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and co-author of the new report Managing California's Water. "But if we take bold steps now, we can move from an era of conflict to one of reconciliation, where water is managed more flexibly and comprehensively, to benefit both the economy and the environment.” Click on the cover to be taken to the report.

Pass the buffalo

The president intimated Tuesday that the Department of Interior may be in for some cuts, however  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar followed up yesterday with a shadow state of the union address for staff. Click here for the text. Included in the oratory is a pledge to “increase available water supply for agricultural, municipal, industrial, and environmental uses in the western United States by 490,000 acre feet through Reclamation’s conservation-related programs.”  Also on the promise list is increasing capacity for renewable energy on public lands, while at the same time ensuring complete environmental review. How the latter can be assured without the environmental reviews being a sham is unclear. Via the Great Basin Water Network.

The week that wasn’t

For those of you who missed the sign-off last Sunday, The week that was has gone the way of the TV show that inspired its name. Launched in June 2009, The week that was lasted nearly as long as the BBC comedy, with pay that would have been low by 1960s public television standards had there been pay. Producing a page that regularly featured both Wen Jiabao and Pat Mulroy was a labor of love, and of profound interest. The reward came in the kind of knowledge that can shut down a dinner party faster than putting Smithsonian Institute Blues on the stereo. When NPR broadcast a capable story about chlorine, chloramine and the way they interact with different plumbing media last week, TWTW had already roto-rootered that material in these pages every week since June 2009 and spent hours producing fiddly links for your clicking pleasure. An abiding interest

The week that was, 12/26/2010-1/1/2011

Tropical Storm Tasha caused flooding that affected an estimated 200,000 people in Queensland, Australia. Image: NASA. Click on the image to be taken to the Earth Observatory.

“This is without a doubt a tragedy on an unprecedented scale.” — Queensland Premier Anna Bligh on Australian floods covering an area larger than France and Germany combined, Floods in northeast Australia strand 200,000, AP / Los Angeles Times, December 31, 2010

… parts of the South had their first white Christmas since records have been kept. – East Coast blizzard strands travelers, frustrates drivers, Los Angeles Times, December 27, 2010

Around 32,000 properties are still without water in Belfast and surrounding towns after pipes burst during the freezing weather and subsequent thaw before Christmas, Water torture: Tankers on standby with supplies for Ulster as families tell of misery, Daily Mail, December 31, 2010

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