27 Feb 2015

Friday party!

It's time for another "people are awesome" compilation:

You may notice that 99 percent of the "people" are guys. The "girls are awesome" versions of these videos tend to emphasize skin over muscles.

How do you get awesome? How about practicing ping pong for a year?

H/T to HZ

What's your value of water?

The 2015 Water Smarts Calendar [free download] has an exercise every month to help you understand your relations -- and others' relations -- with water.

The January activity focussed on the values of water, and people gave useful answers to the following questions:

Pretend you have NO WATER SERVICE in your house. You need to walk 5 minutes from your house to get "free" clean water from a water tap.
  1. What is the MAXIMUM you would pay someone to bring 10 liters (2.5 gallons) of clean water, per day, for your personal use?
    The average answer here was US$5 for ten liters. The lowest was $0 ("I won't ever mind walking 5 minutes from my house everyday if that ensures free clean potable water availability" or "We walk the dog, so likely would walk it up there and get water daily."), and many wrote $10 -- an amount that's closer to the cost of bottled water ($1/liter) than tap water ($2-3 per 1,000 liters). These answers perhaps reflect the amazing gap between our water values and the price we pay.

  2. How much would you pay for 10 MORE liters of clean water, per day?
    The average answer here was US$3.80 for ten liters, but a minority of people gave answers that were the same as before or higher. Higher answers do not make sense from an economic perspective ("demand slopes down" means that we are willing to pay more for the first units of water than later units, given that we already have the first units), but perhaps those answers reflect some notion that water should be cheaper because it is a human right.
Respondents also gave some interesting comments:
  • "I use my daily living as my daily workout, for example, I use the stairs at work almost exclusively instead of elevators to get to my cube on the 13th floor. My attitude would be to take on the water fetching as a new exercise, so I wouldn't pay much for someone else to do this for me. However, I have a wife and two kids, so I'm not sure I could accommodate their water needs as well."
  • "I am assuming a young kid would pay the equivalent of a bag of Flamin Hot Cheetos, which are a very popular treat and good example of value."
  • "This is the amount I would be willing to pay RIGHT NOW because I live in Sao Paulo, and I'm sure the situation will be really bad in the next months (we are in a severe drought)...with prices increasingly crazily."
And finally: "We live in a rural area, on a well, in a drought, we've cut back by 50%. The neighbor irrigates 5 acres for his horse on same aquifer. Question: Should I shoot him?"
The short answer is no. The longer answer is watch your well-head (water level), to see if it's falling. If so, you may need to have a chat with your neighbor(s) about paying you for "your" water.

Note that these comments -- and the results of willingness to pay -- were more about the value of water service (water brought to the house) than the value of water (how much to get 10 liters if you could only buy it). Those values are going to be higher.

Bottom Line: Our values for water (service) vary a lot. That means we need to find ways to make sure that those with low values get access to some water while others with high values are allowed to buy more. The thousand-to-one difference between price (cost of service) and values (here) means that it should be easy to charge enough to run the system without depriving anyone while dampening "excess" demand.

Please complete the February exercise ("what's your customer class") so we can continue these interesting discussions...

26 Feb 2015

Water prices, sprawl and conservation

After my AMA on Reddit a few months ago, ND sent the following questions:

Q: You mentioned at one point that reducing sprawl can help with local water issues. I know that dense cities have far lower per-capita water usage, but do you have any data on the cost of infill versus exurban development? I'm generally supportive of smart growth, but I have heard some detractors say that the cost of upgrading pipelines to accommodate higher density is greater than the cost of new supplies to the suburbs.

A: Yes, it's true that repairs and retrofits are more expensive (due to finding pipes, ripping streets, matching old layout, etc.), but (1) those networks need to be maintained anyway for existing customers and (2) sprawl "uses more water" due to landscaping on larger lots.

Q: My professor (who specializes in water policy) said that water conservation programs subsidized by ratepayers are often used by cities to supply new developments (presumably the property taxes from these will eventually pay off current residents). That seems like corporate welfare, and dumb, unsustainable growth.

A: Well, that's certainly possible, even if it is fraudulent. The only use of those funds that makes sense, in terms of new developments, would be upgrading new infrastructure to improve conservation, e.g., installing a "purple pipe" network for distributing recycled water for landscaping. The tax-existing-residents-to-subsidize-new-residents-whose-taxes-will-repay-existing-residents idea sounds like robbing Peter to pay Paul...

Q: I've seen your advocacy of (excessively) high water rates with a per-capita rebate to pay back revenue. While I agree with that in theory, I don't see how it could be politically feasible in most places. Maybe it would be easier at a local level, but Republican politicians seem unwilling to support a fee and dividend consumption tax (whether it is a carbon tax or higher water rates) that would both help the environment and poor people.

A: I agree that Republicans often promote anti-poor, anti-environmental policies,* but I'm hopeful that local politicians -- the ones affecting water prices -- might see the advantages of lowering water use and rebating excess revenues. They might see this because of the importance of protecting citizens from water shortages without putting undue financial stress on the people who use the least water (they are not the problem). I outline this system in my book and in this post.

* I highly recommend (1) this great talk about the crisis of capitalism and (2) this excellent paper [pdf] on the rise of the "winner takes all" society.

25 Feb 2015

Speed blogging

  1. California is screwed in terms of water supplies (image), but ACWA (Association of California Water Agencies) is making worthless counterproductive suggestions, e.g., "Clarifying that mandatory outdoor irrigation limits should be equivalent to a twice a week irrigation schedule." Whatever happened to "don't put drinking water on your lawn?" ACWA is clearly part of the problem, and we know why: water agencies need to SELL water so they can pay their bills

  2. I've done a few talks recently:
    • "Fiscally and environmentally sustainable tariff designs from across the world" (PDF slides and 1h 35m MP3)
    • "Hot topics: Q&A with regulators" (PPS and 1h 24m MP3)
    • "Variations and climate change: the policies and pipes of adaptation" (PDF slides and 1h 1m MP4) for AWRA
  3. "Taiwan is experiencing its most severe drought in decades" and some groups are coping better than others

  4. It is harder to manage transboundary aquifers than transboundary surface waters

  5. California regulators will not allow an irrigation district to finance water conservation improvements by selling water, as that's not "beneficial use." So... they prefer that the water be wasted. FAIL.
H/Ts to JD, NM and RM

24 Feb 2015

Edward Snowden on law and liberty

Edward Snowden, Glen Greenwald and Laura Poitras did an AMA on Reddit yesterday. (Poitras's film on Snowden -- Citizenfour -- won an Oscar for best documentary; Greenwald is the journalist closest to Snowden.)

This question -- and its answers -- are worth your time:
What's the best way to make NSA spying an issue in the 2016 Presidential Election? It seems like while it was a big deal in 2013, ISIS and other events have put it on the back burner for now in the media and general public. What are your ideas for how to bring it back to the forefront?
This is a good question, and there are some good traditional answers here. Organizing is important. Activism is important.

At the same time, we should remember that governments don't often reform themselves. One of the arguments in a book I read recently (Bruce Schneier, "Data and Goliath"), is that perfect enforcement of the law sounds like a good thing, but that may not always be the case. The end of crime sounds pretty compelling, right, so how can that be?

Well, when we look back on history, the progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law. America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day. History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews.

But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?

Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had -- entirely within the law -- rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers?

Ultimately, if people lose their willingness to recognize that there are times in our history when legality becomes distinct from morality, we aren't just ceding control of our rights to government, but our agency in determining our futures.

How does this relate to politics? Well, I suspect that governments today are more concerned with the loss of their ability to control and regulate the behavior of their citizens than they are with their citizens' discontent.

How do we make that work for us? We can devise means, through the application and sophistication of science, to remind governments that if they will not be responsible stewards of our rights, we the people will implement systems that provide for a means of not just enforcing our rights, but removing from governments the ability to interfere with those rights.

You can see the beginnings of this dynamic today in the statements of government officials complaining about the adoption of encryption by major technology providers. The idea here isn't to fling ourselves into anarchy and do away with government, but to remind the government that there must always be a balance of power between the governing and the governed, and that as the progress of science increasingly empowers communities and individuals, there will be more and more areas of our lives where -- if government insists on behaving poorly and with a callous disregard for the citizen -- we can find ways to reduce or remove their powers on a new -- and permanent -- basis.

Our rights are not granted by governments. They are inherent to our nature. But it's entirely the opposite for governments: their privileges are precisely equal to only those which we suffer them to enjoy.

We haven't had to think about that much in the last few decades because quality of life has been increasing across almost all measures in a significant way, and that has led to a comfortable complacency. But here and there throughout history, we'll occasionally come across these periods where governments think more about what they "can" do rather than what they "should" do, and what is lawful will become increasingly distinct from what is moral.

In such times, we'd do well to remember that at the end of the day, the law doesn't defend us; we defend the law. And when it becomes contrary to our morals, we have both the right and the responsibility to rebalance it toward just ends.
Greenwald adds:
The key tactic DC uses to make uncomfortable issues disappear is bipartisan consensus. When the leadership of both parties join together - as they so often do, despite the myths to the contrary - those issues disappear from mainstream public debate.

The most interesting political fact about the NSA controversy, to me, was how the divisions didn't break down at all on partisan lines. Huge amount of the support for our reporting came from the left, but a huge amount came from the right. When the first bill to ban the NSA domestic metadata program was introduced, it was tellingly sponsored by one of the most conservative Tea Party members (Justin Amash) and one of the most liberal (John Conyers).

The problem is that the leadership of both parties, as usual, are in full agreement: they love NSA mass surveillance. So that has blocked it from receiving more debate. That NSA program was ultimately saved by the unholy trinity of Obama, Nancy Pelosi and John Bohener, who worked together to defeat the Amash/Conyers bill.

The division over this issue (like so many other big ones, such as crony capitalism that owns the country) is much more "insider v. outsider" than "Dem v. GOP". But until there are leaders of one of the two parties willing to dissent on this issue, it will be hard to make it a big political issue.

That's why the Dem efforts to hand Hillary Clinton the nomination without contest are so depressing. She's the ultimate guardian of bipartisan status quo corruption, and no debate will happen if she's the nominee against some standard Romney/Bush-type GOP candidate. Some genuine dissenting force is crucial.
Bottom Line: "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

23 Feb 2015

I'm talking about adaptation and climate change tmrw!

  • Title: "Variations & Climate Change: The Policies & Pipes of Adaptation"
  • Time: 1pm ET
  • Cost: Free for AWRA members; $25 for others (I will post an archive in a week or so...)
  • More: HERE!

Monday funnies

Useful tips for staying awake...

How should a country manage its natural resources?

No matter the country's state of development -- poor or rich -- it is important to:
  1. Manage the resource to maximize its value, and
  2. Distribute the surplus from the resource to all citizens.
Failure to do either of these means "wasting the national patrimony."

On (1), for example, the government of Brazil requires that Petrobras (its national oil company) use domestic suppliers (instead of the lowest or most qualified bidder) and that it sell fuel below cost (thereby requiring Petrobras to import fuel to sell at a loss).

On (2), for example, the government of Saudi Arabia diverts most profits from oil into the hands of the royal family, rather than a sovereign wealth fund or to citizens. This concentration of wealth drives massive inequality and dislike of the government -- two factors that may explain Saudi citizens participation in 9/11.

I could give many examples of how violating (1) and/or (2) has resulted in resource depletion, corruption, poverty, and so on.

Bottom Line: The only way to avoid the "resource curse" is to manage the resource to its full value and share that value among ALL its owners.

20 Feb 2015

Friday party!

This commercial ("ride the bus!") is epic

H/T to CD

Speed blogging

  1. IB-NET has a great new search function to help you find and see more data on utilities around the world

  2. Check out Jenny Ross's amazing photo essay, "Why the Disappearance of the Arctic's Sea Ice Matters" [pdf]

  3. "A simple IBT [Increasing Block Tariff] tariff disregarding household size may not be "fair" at all"

  4. How to improve "the quality of economic regulation of the Dutch drinking water sector

  5. Watch this short film on efforts to "restore balance" to Mexico City's over-populated, over-drained valley

  6. Try this [PDF] for unsustainable:
    Government subsidies for Bahrain's municipal water sector stood at BD123 million (US$326m) in the financial year 2012/13, having risen by 173 per cent since 2006 as water demand and the costs of domestically produced natural gas increased. Even water consumption of over 100m3/month – a category into which 31 per cent of subscribers fall – receives a subsidy of more than 70 per cent
H/T to ZS

19 Feb 2015

Why not try profit sharing?

Many people are suspicious of Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs), which -- they claim -- have reasons to "rip off" the community in the name of profits. Others will say that these claims need not be true if (1) the firm cares about its reputation or (2) regulators are doing their jobs.

It occurs to me that it would be easier to put these hard-to-verify claims and counter-claims to rest by specifying that any "profits" earned by IOUs should be split between their shareholders and customers (as would be the case in a cooperative). Such a system would mean that the IOU's profits in flush times would be less controversial to customers getting a check at the same time as their misery in skint times would be seen with more sympathy. I know that investors might be unwilling to share "their" money, but it's not like their taking a big risk with a utility, eh?


18 Feb 2015

Anything but water

  1. How to make graffiti like this:

  2. Dan Sumner (one of my professors at UC Davis) does an econtalk on US agricultural policy (a complex, self-inflicted wound that harms the country and world)

  3. Severin Borenstein thoroughly demolishes "job creation" as a justification for ANY policy

  4. Camping-Trip Economics vs. Woolen-Coat Economics, i.e., the difference between trading stuff "we got somewhere" and making stuff

  5. Three families opposed to fracking were crushed by energy companies and Texas state officials

17 Feb 2015

The paranoid foundations of regulation

I'm in Budapest for a regulation training workshop. I just heard a long presentation of all the accounting gimmicks that one national regulator chases in its attempt to balance the "needs of investors" and "concerns of customers."

Ignoring the interesting question (why are you in the middle, then, with your assumptions on needs and concerns), I came to a more interesting realization, i.e., that regulation is built on the assumption that customers are unwilling to pay the price of good service and that investor owned utilities (IOUs) are "out to get" customers' money.

Move into a world of where there's enough money and IOUs are not crooks, and the mood will lighten up.

Bottom Line: It's not a good idea to start a relationship with one side calling the other "thief" while the other replies with "cheapskate."

16 Feb 2015

Monday funnies

An observation: Jon Stewart has joined Colbert in retiring from his show. I wonder if they both realized that they were spinning their wheels as far as improving America's dysfunction suicidal politics and just said "fuck it -- it's not worth $millions to joke about something so pathetic."

Some thoughts on water shortages in São Paulo, Brazil

JM emails:
I would really appreciate a blog post on any insights you may have on Brazil's current water situation. [We received a letter] from water authorities stating that São Paulo is running out of water and there is no plan B, written "in large friendly letters." A few things that I've picked up on the situation:
  1. Southeast Brazil is in a severe water shortage and it's the "worst drought in 80 years...."
  2. If it's this bad now in rainy season, I assume things will get worse in dry season.
  3. Around 40% of São Paulo's water supply is unaccounted for (local news, but I don't have any official sources). Leaks are a major problem (I see roads torn up all the time with water utility employees hunting for leaks), but so is the "free" water use.
  4. 90% of Brazil's power generation is hydroelectric. I know Brazil can buy some power from neighboring countries, but I don't think it's near enough to compensate if the water level continues to drop. All eggs in the hydroelectric basket? Paraguay might be worse, since it depends on just the dam at Iguassu Falls for nearly all power generation.
  5. I believe the letters like the one I received are inciting the opposite of the desired behavior, and many people are filling buckets of water to prepare for low or no water pressure.
  6. Some discount programs have been created, such as "lower consumption by 30% and lower your water bill by 50%!" But, prices have not been raised and few efforts to curb illegal use have been implemented.
  7. Water rationing has limited effects because nearly everyone maintains a "water box" above the home or apartment complex. When the water is off, consumption comes from the box, which is simply refilled when the water comes back on. Local news has stated that water authorities are considering "five days off two days on" in order to reach the desired consumption level.
I could be wrong on some of the specific stats above, but that's what I've gathered from local news sources and this really isn't covered internationally. You mentioned Brazil briefly in your AMA on Reddit, but considering the situation is getting quite dire, maybe you could weigh in with more details, if you're familiar. Last, any suggestions for a resident? For example, how real is the impact? Is this a hoard as much bottled water as possible scenario? Any ideas on when water shortages typically lead to unrest?
Well, JM, you've got a pretty good handle on the situation, from my perspective, but let me comment with my opinions of what's going on. (I've never been to SP, so I'm just flying by pants here...)
  • Natural droughts can have must larger impacts when people are already "using" a large share of ecosystem capacity, esp. if we are withdrawing stored water. It seems that SP depends on rainfall for hydropower. The lack of sufficient groundwater (or surface) storage is disconcerting
  • High rates of stolen and leaked are consistent with incompetent or corrupt utilities -- esp. if they get paid to "repair" leaks
  • Yeah, 90 percent if pretty high. Always good to have diverse energy sources
  • Buckets are a short term solution, storage tanks as well. Then comes people with wells and access to tanker water deliveries, but the real long term solution is to live within annual precip with a buffer of 1-10 years (depends on weather cycles). I guess SP is outside those bounds, probably b/c it's more popular to deliver what people demand at a minimal (and risk increasing) price/cost of service. 
  • You're right -- higher prices and a crackdown on theft would be useful... about 3 years ago. Nobody wants to see the poor cut off when managers' failures are already manifest -- remember Detroit!
  • Water rationing could be replaced by higher prices, but that assumes (1) water meters and (2) high enough prices. As you can see with the boxes, people are clever enough to get around superficial responses (rationing rarely works...)
In terms of suggestions, I say:
  • Store two liters/person/day of drinking water for 20 days (40lts/person) and -- probably -- switch to bottled water, as it's tough to maintain quality when the pipes are filling/emptying at various pressures all the time.
  • Yes, there will be unrest, but what will people do? Attack the dam? They can't insist that more gas be burned (i.e., for energy shortages), so it should dissapate or fall on unlucky merchants. Keep an eye on local desalination (if any) and bottled water plants in terms of scaling up/breaking down, etc.
Anyone else got something to add?

Bottom Line: Poor governance can be hidden for awhile, but when the tide goes out, everyone sees who's got no pants on.

13 Feb 2015

Friday party!

Assuming 1-2 kids (and thus no increase in population), why not celebrate in style?

More here

Speed blogging

  1. Here are the PDF slides and an MP4 video (for my voice) from my AWRA talk "Farms and Rivers: Balancing between Food Production and the Environment"

  2. Climate change will raise sealevel. YOU know that, but here's how it looks

  3. The USFS climate aquatics blog -- which is not really structured like a blog -- has some new posts on river temperatures (increasing under CC) and aquatic life

  4. Nice discussion: "Energy Implications of Water Transfer: Understanding Tradeoffs (for the environment) and Identifying Options (e.g., desalination)"

  5. Fleck writes a nice goodbye to as he retires as a "water journalist" (but continues as a water wonk)

  6. California regulators have allowed frack water return flows to be injected into aquifers that farmers share. Now their crops are dying. That's ok, right, since now we have cheap gas?
H/T to BB

12 Feb 2015

Anything but water (inequality edition)

  1. Gandhi was a reformer but not a revolutionary when it came to caste

  2. Should you tell your kids how much you earn? Also from MR: maybe you should admire people who do the jobs you fear rather than people who do the jobs you want...

  3. People responded badly to "homelessness" in SimCity. Would you put them in charge of YOUR city?

  4. Did Romans treat their slaves better than companies treat their "wage slaves" today?

  5. English farmers are so worried about conflict and competition over irrigation water that they cannot get to compromise. Related: Finns are willing to accept water price increases IF they see their utility as "fair"

11 Feb 2015

Mid-week break

I'm too busy to write something just now. Enjoy this nice video of the "wave screens" at LAX (a total mess outside but nicer inside)

10 Feb 2015

Speed blogging

  1. Read this cool paper [pdf] on innovative ways to bring water to low-income communities (many applications in less-developed countries). Related: Frank Steenbergen blogs on "cheap" access to groundwater and writes on the politics of groundwater management in Ethiopia and Yemen. Also: Chinese groundwater users associations managing scarcity

  2. Marketplace interviewed me on water pricing and conservation (more to come, I hope)

  3. More dams are being removed in the US (some, in line with my suggestion, as a quid-pro-quo for license renewal; see p 740 in this PDF)

  4. Three papers on the (water-energy-food-climate) "nexus" as a means of protecting community, renewed promise of security, and/or complement/substitute to IWRM

  5. EU research money at work: "The SmartH2O project aims to provide water utilities, municipalities and citizens, with an ICT-enabled [open source] platform to design, develop and implement better water management practices and policies." They are still building, so contact them to get involved or learn more

H/Ts to SJ, RM, GV and BW

9 Feb 2015

Monday funnies

This photo of Queen Maxima of the Netherlands was captioned "As Dutch as it gets"

You can see why with the 35 percent discount sticker. (I'm guessing the flowers were a gift from an admiring -- and thrifty -- fan :)

We are not always helpless before feckless politicians

I asked Ralph Pentland -- author of Down the Drain and expert on Canadian water policy -- for an update on a year-old post on "the suffocation of Canadian science."

He send this great reply:
There is not yet a change in government policy, but there is a perceptible trend in public attitudes, which if it continues may ultimately be reflected in government policy. For example:
  • A recent poll (by the public relations firm Edelman) suggests that only 47 percent of Canadians trust businesses, down from 62 percent a year ago. The reason - businesses "failed to contribute to the greater good".
  • Public hearings regarding fracking in Quebec resulted in such a negative reaction that the Province was forced to impose a fracking moratorium.
  • A provincial election was fought on the issue of fracking in New Brunswick. The result - a moratorium on fracking.
  • Ontario tried to reverse a restriction on water extractions by Nestle during low water. Environmentalists brought the case before a tribunal using public trust arguments and won.
  • The province of Ontario issued a license for a waste disposal site over a pristine aquifer in the township of Tiny. Public opposition was so strong, the licence had to be withdrawn.
  • Although unsuccessful in slowing down oil sands development per se, certain elements of the public are effectively stalling and in some cases perhaps even eliminating pipeline options for getting the product to market.
  • In the landmark Tsilhquot'in decision last summer, the Supreme Court affirmed aboriginal title to huge swaths of frontier territory; and confirmed that governments may not infringe on that title unless they can prove "a compelling and substantive" public need.

In other words, the public is fighting back on several fronts. As a result, more and more often these days we are hearing that government and industry are losing "social licence", even for good resource development. A stalemate is developing that is harmful to the environment but also to the economy and the natural security of future generations.

This conundrum cannot likely be resolved without a healthier form of environmental democracy. We will need better, and more transparent science. We will need more meaningful ways for citizens to participate in decisions. And we will have to, in one way or another give citizens access to justice (the ability of citizens to seek a remedy for a violation of a basic environmental right).

On the latter point, Chris Wood and I devoted an entire chapter ("Magna Carta Natura") in Down the Drain. When governments ignore their responsibilities to protect our water resources, the duty to do so does not disappear. And citizens are beginning to demand access to that form of justice. They won't get it for awhile, but it seems to me to be inevitable in the long run.

6 Feb 2015

Friday party!

Of all the Superbowl ads (I got this from a website, I didn't watch the game), I liked this the best:

Good job Coke.

ps: I hate annotations on YouTube. You can turn them (if you're signed in) off here.

Speed blogging

  1. I'm doing two more webinars for the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) on 10 and 24 Feb. They are free for members and $25 for non-members. (I'm not paid.) The first -- "Farms and Rivers: Balancing Between Food Production and the Environment" -- will be at 1pm ET on 10 Feb. You can download/listen to my past AWRA webinars on my talks page

  2. A nice report on an activist's efforts to get laws applied and made to reduce pollution of India's Ganga River (yes, the sacred one)

  3. A judge has ruled that "Pom wonderful" engaged in deceptive advertising (over pomegranate juice? wtf?) Now I'm wondering where that "non-deceptive" advertising is...

  4. Copenhagen's "climate change adapted neighborhood" has good drainage

  5. Des Moines is suing farmers for polluting water. Good. Related: Dutch agricultural water pollution is terrible but getting better [pdf]

  6. ResourceMatics (a small UK consultancy) has released water risk and river-basin risk tools (=GIS-driven worldmaps) that are worth checking out here. Related: Maps of US warming over the past 100 years and precip patterns shifting to the NE.
H/T to RM

5 Feb 2015

Can I get a doggie bottle for this water?

We asked for water at a Thai restaurant (Amsterdam tap water is excellent) and got this:

I recommend that you get the rest of your "ice water" in a bottle to go if they have the cojones to charge you for it.

4 Feb 2015

Anything but water

Amsterdam is one of those rare cities that looks good close up
  1. America needs to reconsider its relationship with Saudi Arabia 

  2. One million people live underground in Beijing -- and it's not too bad

  3. Microeconomists are improving markets; macroeconomists not so much

  4. A brutal (and sensible) critique of the soldier-killing, money-wasting US military

  5. The post-2015 "Sustainable development goals" are set to fail, even before launch: "169 targets are as good as no targets"

  6. This dog knows how to do one trick -- balancing stuff on its head -- really well!

3 Feb 2015

Are you a consumer, customer or user?

A consumer takes what they are given and a customer chooses what to take, but only utilities and drug dealers sell to "users."

In February, it's time to meet your water utility.

This activity from the 2015 Water Smarts Calendar (free download) shouldn't take you too long, as your only mission is finding your "class" (look on your water bill?) and comparing the charges you face to the charges in other classes. This activity is based on Chapter 1 of Living with Water Scarcity (another free download), which you may want to (re)read around now.

There's no right answer. Water utilities around the world have adopted many different classification systems. Let's find out yours!

After you find your class, fill in this webform (anonymous or not). I'll look at answers and post some analysis in a month.

Important: I have set up a "Water Smarts Calendar" mailing list for people who want to be reminded about each month's activity and/or read my analysis of each month's data. You can add your email to the list here.

2 Feb 2015

Monday funnies

Rain of terror

RM, a faithful reader, sent this clipping on a "rain free January," which concludes:
2015 is shaping up as a year that will threaten California urban areas, agriculture and environment alike. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Californians should hunker down and get ready for them.
That's a terrifying thought, but what can we do about it?
  1. Some people would say "drill deeper and expel the illegal aliens"
  2. Others would say "shower with a friend"
  3. The remaing majority would say "what water problem? Didja see the Superbowl?"
The sad fact is not the majority's indifference and ignorance -- it is that Californians -- and many other people in the world -- find themselves in dire straights after failing to live within limits, buffers or even rational acknowledgement of reality.

Bottom Line: Nature makes a drought, man makes a shortage, and fools ignore their role in creating problems.