28 September 2011

Urban water management in Milwaukee

I attended Milwaukee's fifth water summit ("Achieving harmony with Water") on 19-20 September. The summit was organized in three tracks (urban agriculture, storm water management, and energy-water), and I spent most of my time on the urban agriculture track.

During the Monday lunch keynote, Jamie Workman and I collaborated on a presentation [60 min 28 MB MP3] in which I discussed each of the tracks and Jamie talked about his experiences with sustainability in Botswana and his urban water trading start-up.

My main points were that:
  • Urban agriculture will only take off if it's price competitive with local agriculture (although food stamp subsidies can't hurt).
  • Storm water management may be easier when agencies coordinate with prices instead of command and control.
  • Energy-water management will not work until the price of water accurately reflects scarcity.
During the Q & A, I suggested that people spend a lot more time on adapting to climate change, since mitigation efforts are going nowhere (earlier post). That upset some people working on mitigation technology.

Speaking of technology, I was VERY pleased to use Square (app+device) to accept credit card payments from people buying The End of Abundance. It's free to install and they take a 3% charge. Check it out.

The local TV station also interviewed me on Milwaukee's potential as a global leader in water technology innovation (I speak for about 15 seconds @ 1:20)

The Tuesday morning keynote by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was slightly interesting (she talked about green jobs, etc.) but mostly irrelevant -- she didn't do any Q & A -- but I'll let you decide: here's her 18 min talk [8MB MP3]

Bottom Line: I enjoyed learning about the way water is perceived and managed in the Great Lakes area, home to 20 percent of the world's freshwater.


  1. David,

    Thanks for visiting us and sharing your perspective! FWIW, my quick take on the first day is here: http://glpf.org/resource_room/water-summit-v-milwaukee-water-council

    Let me know if I've completely mischaracterized what you said.

  2. @David -- No, this was not quite right:

    David seemed to suggest that a transition from water "rates" to "prices" is an important means to the end of better managed water,


    David poured his heart and soul into a plea for a transition from water "rates" to scarcity-sensitive "prices" is an important means to the end of better managed water

    Better? :)


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