Collegian T he Cameron University
Monday, November 24, 2014
Volume 91 Issue 10
Combating the water crisis
Photos by Kaley Patterson
Time for action Casey Brown and Kaley Patterson
have real, viable options. Now what we really need, what you need in your community, is the political will and the moral courage to act. That’s the Collegian Staff bottom line.” Currently, America uses outdated Oklahomans, like many other infrastructures and solutions for Americans, are experiencing drying attaining and retaining water. Glennon wells. pointed out three areas that worked in Robert Glennon, the second the past, but are now insufficient. speaker for “Sustainability: Diverting from rivers used to be Challenges and Opportunities,” a common and effective practice, shared his knowledge of the current but recently, rivers have dried out state of America’s drought, and give and not refilled their bases. Glennon suggestions on how the nation can move toward sustainability on Nov. 18. said this chain reaction is due to two other methods: damming and drilling According to Glennon, water ground water. shortage is a solvable problem but America has built one dam a day comes with expensive adjustments; since Thomas Jefferson signed the America cannot continue its current Declaration of Independence, as water practices. Glennon pointed out, but he also The results of decades’ worth of said the dam-building days are over. consultation, analysis and expertise Today, more dams are torn down have appeared in his two books: than built up. There’s nowhere else “Water Follies: Groundwater to build dams, and possible sites are Pumping and the Fate of America’s controversial and expensive. Fresh Waters” and “Unquenchable: Drilling ground water for wells and America’s Water Crisis and What irrigation has caused soil erosion, sink To Do About It.” He has appeared holes and fissures. Glennon believes in various print and broadcast there is a solution to the increasing publications, including The causes of drought, but his belief does Washington Post, The Huffington not involve the trades of the past. Post and “The Daily Show.” He suggested three ways Despite the growing fear of running Americans could re-strategize their out of water and the increasing habits. complacency with each temporary Desalination, the process of repreive, Glennon believes this is a purifying salt water, is an option time for America to act. He said a but can be expensive and difficult to crisis is an opportunity for action. implement. However, while Oklahoma “It’s a time when we have choices is land locked, using a de-sal plant here to make, whether we go down one would be less expensive, Glennon said. path or another path,” he said. “We
“There are some areas where its not so salty as ocean water, but its brackish water,” Glennon said. “You wouldn’t want to drink it, but maybe you can build a de-sal plant around here to convert some of that brackish water.” Reusing water, such as wastewater, is a conservation strategy because all the water received is treated for consumption but used for everyday tasks like flushing the toilet or watering the grass, which is a waste of time, money and water. “Water that is going through the waste water treatment plant is water that we can use again,” he said. Glennon also suggested conserving water, which Lawton already practices. The city of Lawton is under stage three water restrictions, which regulates the outside water usage. Glennon said individuals can further conserve water by throwing extra food away or putting it in the compost instead of using the food disposal to eliminate scraps. Residents should also turn off lights when not in use because electricity requires an extreme amount of water.
Beyond what America has done and can do, Glennon proposed what the nation should be doing. He first mentioned the need to rid flushing toilets and look for alternatives to dispose human waste. Currently, people are looking for waterless disposing options. Glennon also suggested charging for water above basic human needs. He said water is less expensive than the average American’s cell phone bill because people aren’t actually charged for water, just for labor and services. “The price is worse than low,” Glennon said. “You start to raise water rates, it is like [turmoil]. It’s going to take the rest of us to understand that we need to raise water rates.” Furthermore, Glennon recommended reallocating current water rights. Glennon repeatedly emphasized that Americans can and must do better, and the solutions of the old days are no longer working and will only make the crisis worse. He said it is time for action.
For more information on the drought in Texoma, see “Speakers address state of local water,” on Page 4
Q&A with Robert Glennon
Based on your experience, could you provide an overview of what we’re seeing in the country right now in this fight for water?
People are moving from where the water is to where the water isn’t. That’s sort of the big picture. That said, we’ve done a great job over the last five years of reducing water use. The USGS just recently released a report showing a decrease in water use. It’s not that we suddenly got religion. It’s that more and more homes have low-flow toilets and low-flow shower heads and washing machines that are front loaded and use a fraction of the water they used to. On the commercial and industrial side, the energy production side, power plants are being driven by the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to use way less water than they used to use. So they’ve cut way back. The steel industry has cut more than 90 percent the amount of water they used to use in its production. If you were to look at food producers like Nestle [and] automobile producers like Ford, you’re finding that they all have sustainability movements, and they all have taken steps toward reducing their water demand. So that’s all great. But the other side of the equation is that this is our water supply.
The hydrological cycle teaches us that we can neither make more water nor destroy water. All the water there is, is. We have used water in a way that is simply unsustainable. The water there is, isn’t sufficient because we’re using it in ways that are unsustainable. So water isn’t where we need it when we need it in the form that we need it.
and reused water. Are these two things that you recommend?
I think there’s a lot of progress. Some places are still clueless. ... Drought makes you aware, and you panic; but when the first soaking rain [comes], it’s back to business as usual. Other places have wide eyes and they understand that there is no going back. California is part of that. I see progress in some areas, I see backsliding in other areas. Gradually, what I’m seeing is more and more citizen awareness of their water supply, and that’s a terrific thing.
Right now, my understanding – and I’m not an Oklahoma water lawyer – is that you basically [have] an “open sesame” on your water supply. Anyone who wants can control a well. That’s madness. That’s not law – that’s the antithesis of law. So Oklahoma needs to put limits on new wells. What you’ll see, very quickly, is that supply is going to go down. You’re going to find groundwater of lower quality. You’re going to find land subsidence. You’re going to find higher pumping costs. You’re going to find domestic wells drying up. There are a lot of social and economic consequences associated with not having sensible restrictions on ground water. Reused water – I’m a huge fan of that. It’s expensive…but it’s right there. I don’t know [price], but my guess would be that it would be a lot cheaper.
Here, in this part of the state, we’re in stage three restrictions. Two things that are coming up are studies that start looking into groundwater
The Q&A occured during the 20-minute press conference at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 in the Buddy Green Room. The press, which included KSWO Channel 7, The Cameron Collegian and The Lawton Constitution, took the floor to ask these questions to Robert Glennon.
Where do you see the condition of the water supply in five or ten years, and what can we as a nation do to improve it?
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