15 Mar 2016

WaterSmarts -- ignorance leads to community failure

Update (Sep 2016): Archived WSC website

For the last activity of the 2015 WaterSmarts calendar, I asked people to describe what they learned during the year.

Only one person replied (see below), and that makes me a bit sad. It's not that I put a lot of effort into the calendar (and got $2,000 in pledges to get it done). It's that it seems that people who may be  quick to "like" or "subscribe" but not so quick to spend 1-2 hours per month learning about their local water situation.

That "conclusion" makes my head hurt, as it implies that "water geeks" do not have the (unpaid) time or intrinsic motivation to participate in water-related discussions. Results like these encourage me to direct my energy elsewhere.

I really care about good water management and policy, but I am not interested in tackling these issues alone.

But maybe I'm wrong or missing something, so please correct me.

Here's one set of answers from someone in Ireland:

[In the past year,] what has surprised you?
  • I was surprised by the Shannon water abstraction scheme here in Ireland. I hadn't expected it to be such a significant project with so little publicity or public protest. I found it surprising because the Irish population is currently fairly sensitised to lots of other things that the government imposes on them, from property tax, to pylons carrying electricity transmission lines, to wind turbines, to water charges. So why is such a big engineering project sliding under the radar. Why are the conservationists and the Shannon river people letting it become a fait accompli? I was also initially surprised that it was necessary, but was interested to then go and look at the Dublin water catchment area, and then it didn't surprise me so much.
What do you still want to know?
  • I still want to know whether there's been a good cost benefit study on the Shannon abstraction scheme.
  • I still want to know how long the California drought is going to last (ours in Melbourne lasted ten years with half the average annual rainfall).
  • I still want to know why the reaction in Ireland to water meters is so virulent.
  • I still want to know how supposedly rational people can say, straight faced, that water is an essentials of life and should not be charged for
Where is more action needed?
  • Explaining the basis for the Shannon abstraction scheme.
  • Understanding Irish/Dublin water usage, and why it's twice Melbourne's per capita water usage, while Dublin uses essentially no water for watering gardens at all (many houses don't have an outside tap, most have only one) and it's one of the largest individual usages of many Melbourne households.

    Anything else?
    It's been fun and interesting thinking about water... albeit sporadically :(
DZ's Bottom line: There are many questions worth asking and mamny topics worth discussing when it comes to water management and water's flow through our lives, but none of those questions will be answered or topics discussed unless people devote their time to the issue. Ignorance is an option, but ignorance leads to polluted drinking water, water shortages, dead ecosystems, food shortages, and community failure.

Addendum (16 March): Thanks, those of you who have taken time to email me with support. I didn't realize that this post sounded so isolated, but maybe it's good to know that someone's listening (even if they're too busy to tell you :)

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