31 January 2015

Flashback: 26 Jan -- 1 Feb 2014

A year later and still worth reading...

30 January 2015

Friday party!

The people of Antwerp know how to do a fountain!

Speed blogging

This is why we need deposits on water bottles (from Oman)
  1. Frank van Steenbergen and Michael Campana deliver their caveats on abusing and using groundwater, respectively

  2. No surprise: "manicured" lawns are planet killers

  3. 10 [reasonably interesting] Myths and Facts About Water. Related: This calendar [pdf] is not even close to the Water Smarts Calendar in quality, but maybe you want water conservation advice?

  4. This 2006 paper [pdf] on the origins, performance and evolution of public utilities regulation in the US gives insights on PUCs, regime change and corruption. I was pleased to find this statement in support of my earlier post on the public-private cycle:
    ...it appears that corruption, and the necessity to eliminate corruption when it gets too costly, accounts for the efficacy of regime change. In this context, the direction of regime change -- from public to private, or private to public -- is of second-order importance.
    The paper also discusses how state PUCs protected companies from exploitation by cities, how those PUCs were corrupted by their regulatees, how cities overstaff public utilities, and so on. Read it

  5. I also read the paper on food and virtual water flows in the Roman Era. It's mostly a modeling exercise, but they point out how the Empire grew vulnerable as it expanded demand to absorb "extra" water. A useful insight for today, given our propensity to over-burden water systems.
H/Ts to RM and BP

29 January 2015

Underinsuring and overusing

I'm combing two slightly related ideas in this post.

On the one hand, we read that Exxon has been fined $1 million for spilling 1,500 barrels of oil back in 2011. They also paid $136 million to clean up the oil and $2 million in compensation to victims. I'd have fined them $10 million at least, to reverse the "profit maximizing" behavior that led them to keep pumping in a flooded area (the competition shut down their pipelines), but I doubt whether any fine would have been necessary had they been carrying the "performance insurance" I designed [pdf] to put the insurance company on the line for losses -- and thus on the job to check poor behavior in the field.*

On the other hand, we read of a "report" that says [pdf] the Colorado River Basin (CRB) will suffer a 60+ percent decline in economic activity if no water arrives to the CRB. This study is flawed. First, it is hard to see how this decline would occur when the CRB supplies only 40 percent of the water used for ag and municipal uses. Second, it is even harder to believe that ENTIRE sectors would shut down, when (a) some water is still available and (b) it is possible to do a lot of business with less water -- even farming. I'm guessing that the authors may disagree with me on this, but so would their clients "Protect the Flows, a coalition of businesses that seek to maintain a healthy and flowing Colorado River system." Teachers should use this report as an example of propaganda (jobs created? really?)

Bottom Line: Businesses need water to operate, but that doesn't excuse them from damaging or depleting sources. Businesses should pay for the use and protection of water -- especially if they want to use it in the future!

H/T to MH

* Wow. Here's a nice paper [PDF] showing that oil firms produced less and shut down (two results of less "cowboy behavior") when forced to buy insurance against spills

28 January 2015

Global water crisis number one threat to society?

Let's hope indeed, as such headlines should draw more attention to water management failures and the need to reform -- in recognition, of course, of The End of Abundance.

But first one caveat (and a good one): There is no single global water crisis. There are, rather, a bunch of local crises (and non-crises), each with characteristics unique to their locations. That means that solutions can be found and implemented in each place without needing to coordinate with others (as is the case with nuclear warfare or GHGs).

Bottom Line: There's no global water crisis, and local water crises are not inevitable to those people who learn to live with water scarcity!

H/T to GE

27 January 2015

Anything but water

  1. The American Water Works Association has taken my advice, five years later, to open its future article archive to everyone. Now all they need to do is make past articles available. The world will benefit from knowledge and authors will benefit from the dissemination of their ideas. I doubt that the AWWA makes much on reprint charges (I saw this when my book went from five paid downloads per month to five-hundred-plus free downloads), so what's keeping them?
    Addendum: They are making the archive available for free late this year!

  2. I gave a talk a few weeks ago, "Russia's economic failures and geopolitical risks" (PDF slides and 40 min MP3) at LUC. Do you think Russia will implode silently, invade or turn into a democratic paradise?

  3. A fascinating article on drug addiction and its probable cause: social isolation

  4. The Yes Men (known for posing as businessmen or bureaucrats who announce major, pro-social changes in policy) have taken on the Dutch over the racism inherent to Zwarte [Black] Piet, announced a plan to move the US to 100 percent renewables distributed on a Native-American-owned grid, and exposed Transcanada's anti-insurgency citizen campaign of disinformation

  5. Coyote points out the "miracle" of gasoline (its low price compared to other liquids) before suggesting that gasoline taxes should be diverted from public transit to roads. He's right about the miracle, but wrong on his suggestion. Gas taxes should be set to cover road costs ("user fees"), reduce the negative impacts of pollution and congestion ("Pigouvian fees"), AND generate revenue ("progressive taxation"). The Economist, fortunately, makes the case for removing energy subsidies (cash and non-cash) worldwide

  6. A fascinating PDF with insights (?) on mega-projects in the Middle East (esp. GCC):
    On a cultural analysis level, the inferiority complex towards the West, with its roots in Orientalism, often inspire developing Arab countries to show that they are utterly modern in order to combat prejudices of Arab backwardness. Furthermore, and perhaps given less attention, is that these megaprojects are manifestations and legitimization of power in a somehow unstable political setting, for instance with threats from Islamists and democratic human rights movements. The projects can also be seen as articulation of the interior competition between the different emirates and other Arab oil states based on the traditional prestige society (i.e., the tribal kinship society)
    Related: US tolerance of corruption fuels resentment that increases retaliation and terrorism (in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere) -- as I said on 12 Sep 2001
H/T to EF

26 January 2015

Monday funnies

This cute video points out how silly it is to pay for "stuff you can get for free," but remember that tap water -- although cheaper than bottled water -- needs to have a price if (1) we're going to maintain water systems and (2) want to ration its use when it is scarce.

Indeed, this issue has been around for awhile. Just watch this campy but still-relevant take on "water privatization: exploitation or business?" from this 1958 episode of "Leave it to Beaver"

H/Ts to LA and EF

Bleg: Good science books on water and environment?

ZD asks "You have any favorite books that talk about the chemistry/physical science side of water? How it behaves and interacts with the environment?"

I am stumped, as I do most reading on human-water interactions.


What's water worth to you?

The January activity for the 2015 Water Smarts Calendar [free download] asks you to answer a simple question: what would you be willing to pay to get water, assuming you have none.

I'm looking for as many answers, from around the world, as possible. Please forward this post and answer the question. It only takes two minutes.

It's a great way to start your Monday!

24 January 2015

Flashback: 19-25 Jan 2014

A year later and still worth reading...