WE’RE in the worst drought in the United States since the 1950s, and we’re wasting it.
Though the drought has devastated corn crops and disrupted commerce on the Mississippi River, it also represents an opportunity to tackle long-ignored water problems and to reimagine how we manage, use and even think about water.
For decades, Americans have typically handled drought the same way. We are asked to limit lawn-watering and car-washing, to fully load dishwashers and washing machines before running them, to turn off the tap while brushing our teeth. When the rain comes, we all go back to our old water habits.
But just as the oil crisis of the 1970s spurred advances in fuel efficiency, so should the Drought of 2012 inspire efforts to reduce water consumption.
Our nation’s water system is a mess, from cities to rural communities, for farmers and for factories. To take just one example: Water utilities go to the trouble to find water, clean it and pump it into water mains for delivery, but before it gets to any home or business, leaky pipes send 16 percent — about one in six gallons — back into the ground. So even in the midst of the drought, our utilities lose enough water every six days to supply the nation for a day. You can take a shorter shower, but it won’t make up for that.
The good news: There are a number of steps that together can change, gradually but permanently, how we use water and how we value it. Some can be taken right now.
via New York Times – Charles Fishman
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