30 Jul 2014

My reddit AMA went pretty well!

Hmm... 13 percent of Redditors don't drink water?
I did an "ask me anything" on Reddit a few weeks ago. It was a great success, with 600+ upvotes and 500+ comments (250 from me).

My top-ranked comment -- in response to "What aggravates/upsets you the most in terms of water being wasted in the Western US? Also what is your #1 tip for a person in the 1st world to conserve water?" -- was:
I REALLY dislike cheap water, as people feel fine using a lot of it. Water in Las Vegas is 20% of the price of water in Amsterdam (and lower than the price in most US cities), so we shouldn't be surprised that Las Vegans use it all over the place. It's not really their fault, since we're in the habit of using as much as we want when we pay (for gasoline, food, etc.)
Tip: Don't have a lawn. If you're SERIOUS, then don't eat meat. If you're ridiculous, then don't have kids.
That response -- and many others -- are probably not surprising to long-time readers of this blog (or my books), but most of the people had not heard of either, so I had the opportunity to answer a lot of questions I've considered over the years as well as a few new ones.

Here are some of the stereotypes I tried to dissuade people from holding:
  • Just take water from farmers! Me: Not possible, given water rights
  • Split California into 6 states! Me: Six times the lawyers and bureaucracy?Ack!
  • Desalination everywhere! Me: Maybe for cities, but it won't fix broken management
  • Farmers pay way less than cities! Me: Not if you consider rights, quality, etc.
  • Ship water from Canada! Me: Legally difficult, but desal would be cheaper.
  • Take water from the atmosphere! Me: Nope. Desal/recycling cheaper.
  • Free water as a human right! Me: Not if you want sustainable services
  • Mandate efficiency! Me: Incentives are better than command & control
  • Waste at City Hall! Me: Charge departments for water use
...and then there were some interesting, new ideas:
  • Use drought tolerant grass that doesn't need to be watered!
  • Replace surface water with desalination to restore environmental flows
  • Communities that exhaust their groundwater will need to move
  • A house should come with TCO (total cost of ownership) certificate for the annual cost for energy, water, etc. (given its fixtures, lawn, etc.) so buyers or renters can see all costs
A big thanks to Paul Wyrwoll for helping set up the AMA. I'll be doing another in the fall :)

Bottom Line: "Q: I know we can all do our part but who is really the problem here?" Me: Water managers who declare a shortage should be fired. Politicians who direct "public" water to private use (e.g., from environment to irrigation) should be jailed.

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