29 Sep 2015

WaterSmarts: The water in your food

Here are some very interesting answers from the June WaterSmarts Calendar activity.*

Find the "water footprint" of a food you like AND where it's grown
  1. Wine grapes grown in France, Spain, Italy, Australia
  2. Cheese! Wisconsin
What's the food's "footprint" in gallons or liters of water per unit (say the unit :)
  1. 870 li/li
  2. 3178 litre/kg
Now find how much "water stress" exists where that food is grown
  1. Generally, the red wine that I like is grown in areas of relatively high water stress. White wine is generally grown in cooler, areas of less water stress with lower number of sunshine days. Generally, red wine is not irrigated, or if it is, is irrigated with dripper irrigation at the base of each vine, because vignerons do not want red wine vines to produce too high a physical yield of grapes, on order to increase the concentration of the grapes.
  2. The dairy farming regions of Wisconsin get most water from Great Lakes, so supply is not an issue, but WQ is... thanks to all the dairy farming. Major phosphorus concerns and still not much action in the ag community on best practice implementation. There will have to be a significant hammer in place before that happens.
What do you think about your decision to consume this food against other factors (other foods, water policies, farmer income, etc)?
  1. Red wine is a first world consumption item. It is relatively high in water content, but with little irrigation it imposes little surface water stress. Alternatives such as beer and spirits have as high or higher water content. Drinking only tea or coffee might reduce the water footprint (but also the enjoyment).
  2. I really, really love cheese. So it makes sense for me to advocate more aggressively for agricultural best practices... or to find cheese producers who already set great examples in environmental management.
Notes, comments or questions?
  • I wonder about the "green" water cost of products. If I eat pasta made from French, non-irrigated wheat, compared to Italian non-irrigated wheat, I supposedly reduce the water cost of my food. But have I really? If neither appears to affect surface water, or at least require no direct abstraction, should I consider I've "saved" any water, or lowered anyone's water stress by eating French pasta, or bread, compared to eating Italian pasta? 

* Still accepting answers for these activities:

26 Sep 2015

SoS: 21-27 Sep 2014

These posts are still useful one year (or more) later. Please comment on the original if you have updates on progress or deterioration...

Some excellent posts from my microeconomics students last year:
And from me...

25 Sep 2015

Friday party!

Amsterdam "day parties" seem to be ENTIRELY populated by pretty girls and DJs:



Seriously: The "battle of the aftermovies" among event promoters results in propaganda like this. Yes, there were 10-15 models at this event, but there were also 2,000+ normal people. I wish that they'd just show normal people having a good time, since that is, indeed, what normal people have :)

24 Sep 2015

WaterSmarts: What's your water quality?

For May's calendar activity (linked to Chapter 4 in Living with Water Scarcity), I asked people to look up their local water quality reports and answer a few questions...*

Q: What did you read that impresses you?
  1. Nothing. I get water quality information from the media (Colombia)
  2. It's a comprehensive report. I liked the stuff they are doing with "stakeholders" on pesticide runoff (N Ireland)
  3. It was nice to see monitoring of trihalomethanes (Canada)
  4. The voluntary testing for emerging contaminants (USA)
Q: What did you read that frightens you?
  1. [blank]
  2. The degree of chemical treatment of our water to "sanitise" it e.g. Aluminium salts to flocculate [clump up contamination in] it
  3. Tests for some chemical constituents are done very infrequently which wouldn't allow detection of temporary contamination.
  4. The latest Water Quality Report is from spring 2014, and the website hasn't been updated since 2013. What's more frightening is not in the WQ report, but in the separate Emerging Contaminants study indicating high frequency of detection of pesticides, herbicides and surfactants in raw and finished water.
Bottom Line: I'm not sure water utilities are providing timely, complete and understandable information to their customers on water quality. Do you have examples of any that do (best practices)? Other responses?

* There's still time to complete activities for:

21 Sep 2015

Water Knife -- the review

I read this fictional work by Paolo Bacigalupi after a few water wonks recommended it. The book is set in the American Southwest in the "near future" (around 2030?), and the plot revolves around struggles for water via legal and illegal strategies. "Calis" are the heavy hitters, Las Vegas has its act together (in a coldbloded way), Phoenix (and its Zoners) is #goingdownthedrain, and Texas is a wreck expelling desperate refugees with guns.

Just for fun, I tweeted one snip per chapter as a stream of consciousness of each chapter's "thought," and I'll paste them here (because twitter has no decent search or archive function). The first and last tweets are linked to twitter, the rest I downloaded.

The Water Knife Chapter 1: Promising. Vegas has "court orders" to blow up AZ infrastructure. #seniorright2kill. @paolobacigalupi — David Zetland (@aguanomics) September 3, 2015

WK2: "Weather anchors used the word drought , but drought implied that drought could end" #phoenixdownthetubes

WK3: "The price on the pump is all about how much water... When [supply] gets low, the price goes up so people will... not take so much."

WK4: Some of us used to believe in [patriotism]. Now we just wave the American flag so the feds won't come down on us for militias."

WK5: "Places were blown away, or drowned or burned, and it just kept happening. The equilibrium of the world was shifting."

WK6: "People would take it. She needed this water turned into cash that she could shove into her bra and have a hope of protecting."

WK7: "Pure Life and Aquafina and CamelBak had set up relief tents. Getting good PR photos of how they cared for refugees."

WK8: "Rules are what the big dogs say they are. The reason you pay tax is so they forget to kill you today. That's what you buy with tax."

WF9: "built by Chinese solar investment cash, and probably standing a better chance of survival than anything the locals had created" Phoenix

WK10: "...bloody clothes. His wallet... Jamie always got reimbursed for his business expenses, but this was ridiculous...Salt River Project."

WK11: "The water lawyer?" "Yeah. Since the lawyer's missing his tongue, let's see if she talks any better."

WK12: "...the blood on her skin, trying not to think of where it had come from. It's just water , she told herself. It's just red water"

WK13: "lots of people noticed that when the CAP blew up, Las Vegas immediately stopped spilling water out of Lake Mead"

WK14: "The bartender looked at the 50 dollars like it was dogshit. "You got yuan?" she asked."

WK15: "Maybe tomorrow they couldn't pay rent and they were dead... but tonight she was dancing dirty with a man, and then a woman..."

WK16: "I didn't do anything to Phoenix. Phoenix did itself." " [no] Phoenix didn't cut the CAP. Someone did that with high explosives."

WK17: "Better than a zip code. A five-digit address. A fiver. Five-digit ticket. Permission to enter another world."

WK18: "Cadillac Desert? It's about cars or something?" "Water, actually. It's kind of how we got where we are now."

WK18.2: "I need a book about how I'm supposed to live now." Maria needs http: //t.co/RgtP4hJFaE @paolobacigalupi : )

WK19: "California had gotten tired of negotiating... and had done something about it. It wanted its water, and it wanted it now."

WK20: "He'll pay, he'll pay... Money."

WK21: "I'm going to throw big bad Vegas a fuck in the teeth." He laughed. "Zoners should thank me for that, at least."

WK22: "Why do you care?" He looked surprised, then thoughtful. "You're right. I don't."

WK23: "principles...gets you killed." "Stupid," the girl said. "Yeah. You'd be surprised how many people get their priorities screwed up."

WK24: "She didn't stop for a long time." :(

WK25: "she was sure that this was the place she had dreamed of. It was alive and cool, and... it was her aquifer."

WK27: "Angel remembered Julio standing in his hotel room, staring down at his phone, bitching about the loteria pretending to be frightened."

WK27: "so many overlapping jurisdictions and ... conflicting agreements about water, that it's like digging through bureaucratic spaghetti."

WK28: "When things got too crazy, he stepped way the fuck back. And here she was, diving in deeper."

WK29: "India would survive all this apocalyptic shit, but America wouldn't. Because here, no one knew their neighbors."

WK30: "Lucy stared at the bodies. A whole pile of misunderstanding. The city felt as if it were imploding."

WK31: "They don't control of their own water rights? How'd they manage that?" "Never underestimate the incompetence of a government salary."

WK32: "His fingers held her throat and her entirely. Taking away her air, and her, letting him take it. This was trust. This was life."

WK33: "I just want to get paid, girl. Either I get paid in cash, or I get paid in blood"

WK34: "This is what fear does , she thought. It makes you a perfect liar"

WK35: "You want to get me high before I get eaten alive? You think that helps?"

WK36: "A shadow loomed over him, Death, at last. La Santa Muerte coming to him. The Skinny Lady coming to gather him up."

WK37: ""They put some pressure on you?" Lucy looked away... "My sister. They threatened my sister." "'S a good threat."

WK38: "Sometimes you realize that not risking something so you can live is worse than dying."

WK39: "You didn't judge people for caving under pressure; you judged them for those few times when they were lucky enough to have any choice"

WK40: "Never could figure out why people would think they could survive all out on their lonesome...going to ride out the apocalypse alone."

WK41: "I like you, Angel, but I'm not going to be made a fool. Get me those rights, and we'll talk about bringing you back from the dead."

WK42: "The Red Cross tents were full of people getting sick as the town's water systems failed. The city was awash with sewage"

WK43: "They have no idea...the people who are supposed to be pulling all the strings, and they're making it up as they go along" YEP.

WK44: "Renters always leave first. They got nothing tied to a place that doesn't have water coming out of the taps"

WK45: "People died and hurt each other and struggled, and in the end everyone came up dry..."

WK46: "Phoenix made people crazy...turned people into devils so bad they weren't recognizable as human [or] turned them into goddamn saints"

WK47: "She had old eyes. My dad had that problem, too... She thinks the world is supposed to be one way, but it's not. It's already changed."

WK acknowledgements: "...to know what our future will look like, it's worth following the people who report the trends defining our world."

Bottom Line: A realistic fantasy of a future of scare water where nobody is bound by laws, honor or community. FIVE stars. September 15, 2015

19 Sep 2015

SoS: 14-20 Sep 2014

These posts are still useful one year (or more) later. Please comment on the original if you have updates on progress or deterioration...

17 Sep 2015

Ideas come with experience

I often get questions like this:
I am currently in the middle of writing Statement of Purpose (SOP) for my economics Phd application. I have my undergrad and now trying to finish a masters degree. The problem is that i dont have so much research experience to write down on my SOP. Nor do i have a very specific idea on what my future research direction would go. All i know is that i am very concerned about environment issues.

I feel it is probably not a good idea to write down only my passions and concerns. But, in reality, i dont have much research background and a lucid idea of where Phd is going to take me. Even though, i really want to acquire the skills and be able to engage with this world by discovering or possibly solving its problems. Can you help me?
I replied with:
I ALWAYS recommend a few years between BS and MS and between MS and PhD, so that students have time to see the world, how it works and think about themselves and what's interesting to them.

If you have more experience then an SOP is easier...

The best PhDs are those who can help normal people, not those who live in the ivory tower..."
Bottom Line: Don't rush. Education and experience are both necessary to think creatively about ideas and solutions.

15 Sep 2015

One more time?

Many of you tried to vote for my all-in-auctions idea for the Best Climate Practices contest but were stymied by their defective user accounts system. I wrote this email:
I'm one of the entrants in this contest

I want you to know that I've had several dozen people GIVE UP on voting for my idea due to the flawed sign up, login and vote process...

These problems have, no doubt, affected others' attempts to vote. The flaws have made the contest less fun for people who want to participate.

Yes, Some idea will get the most votes, but it may not have been the most popular idea. (And we know that it may not be either the best idea nor the winning idea...)
... and they sent this reply:
The traffic on Best Climate Practices website has dramatically grown in the past days, the system slowed down and can not process all the requests that arrived.

There are many users that encountered the same problems as those of your contacts.

We are committed to give a chance of voting to as many people as possible, for this reason we decided to postpone the deadline for voting from Tuesday, Sept 15, to Friday, Sept 18.

Please tell your contacts that are still waiting for the confirmation email to directly write us indicating the username and email address they registered with. We'll provide for unblocking their accounts as soon as possible.
So, please do contact them (info@bestclimatepractices.org) if you want to try to vote. I will totally understand if you don't (transactions costs!), and THANK YOU for trying (and/or succeeding!)

Right now, AiA has 47 votes (897 points), and more is always helpful :)

12 Sep 2015

SoS: 7-13 Sep 2014

These posts are still useful one year (or more) later. Please comment on the original if you have updates on progress or deterioration...

8 Sep 2015

Swimming in Amsterdam's canals

I was a lot more smiley before!
Vanity week continues...

As promised, I did the 2km City Swim in Amsterdam last Sunday. The weather was decent, but the water (16.5C/62 F) was COLD. I had on a shorty swimsuit. Now I see that most others had full wetsuits.

Anyway, I made it with a time of 37.5 min (placing 106/1836), and I'm glad that I did it. My next race swim? Probably in another 10 years :)

This event raised EUR 1.7 Million for ALS research. It also highlighted the transition of Amsterdam's canals from open sewers to (reasonably) clean waterways.


We're number 4! Woo woo!

Thank you, to all of you who have voted to have my All-in-Auctions for water idea chosen for a climate change adaptation contest.

(The winner gets 10,000 EUR to spend on a pilot. I am thinking of Imperial Irrigation District, but I could go to India or somewhere else where allocation of scarce water is inefficient AND people are willing to try a new idea for fairness and efficiency.)

My entry is, sadly, not even in first place in the water category, so I need your votes!

(This is partially because I have no 300-student classes to command, but also because the user interface of the site is so badly designed.)

Anyway, if you can take a few minutes, it would be really great if you could vote for my idea.
  1. Go here to create a username (Not sure if Facebook or Google Connect work that well).
  2. Make a password (I suggest "aguanomics" since you're unlikely to use this site again AND it would be sad to use your normal password if they are hacked.)
  3. Check your email for confirmation (incl spam folder) OR try to login directly
  4. Go directly to the All-in-Auction entry to vote in four categories
  5. Submit!
  6. Recommend that others ALSO vote. Sharing is caring!

Thank you!

5 Sep 2015

SoS: 1-6 Sep 2014

These posts are still useful one year (or more) later. Please comment on the original if you have updates on progress or deterioration...

2 Sep 2015

Best Climate Practices contest -- vote for my idea!

I entered my "all in auctions" idea (post with link to paper, presentation, etc.) in this contest being run by the International Center for Climate Governance (ICCG).
Help us find the best climate practice to address water issues and food security

By voting, you will be able to influence which competing practice will win the prize of 10,000 Euros to develop the project.

The winning practice will be determined by a combination of both online voting results and the assessment by the international Expert Panel, this year featuring Michel Camdessus (Chair of FEEM advisory board); Carlo Carraro (ICCG and Ca’Foscari University of Venice); Raffaello Cervigni (World Bank); Frank Convery (University College Dublin); Alberto Garrido (Universidad Politécnica, Madrid).

If you want to give the most support to your preferred candidates, participate in the BCP online polls and share the competing practices on your social networks.
Vote for All in Auctions here!

California Water innovation [sic]

Let me toot my own horn:
“In San Diego, they need the desalinated water, for what – to water their lawns?” Zetland says.

The real irony of the Carlsbad desalination plant, Zetland adds, is that its cost is being distributed across three million rate payers, not just the people receiving its water. It’s a technique called postage stamp pricing, he said, that effectively hides the cost. “If they charged people the actual price of the desalinated water, people would use so much less water that they wouldn’t even need the desalinated water,” Zetland says.

WaterSmarts Calendar -- water poverty and infrastructure

Whoops! The summer vacation season got ahead of me! Here are two activities for the months of August and September:

Water poverty: Call your local water utility and ask if there are programs to help people who cannot pay their water bills. If there are, then how are they funded? If there are no programs, then what happens if people do not pay their bills?

Go here to answer these questions

Water infrastructure: Identify a major project (treatment plant, network extension, dam, etc.) at your water utility. Calculate its cost per resident

Example: Las Vegas's $817 million "third straw" will cost each of its 1.95 million residents $419!

Go here to answer these questions

These questions are from the August and September activities in the WaterSmarts Calendar (free to download). These activities are based on chapters 7 and 8 of Living with Water Scarcity (also free to download).