28 Sep 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.