Are we running dry?

Written by pete


A new documentary on water shortages in the U.S. will be screened on PBS early next month. *The American Southwest: are we running dry?* highlights the shortages in fresh water supplies to over 30 million Americans and investigates possible solutions to the problem.

Watch the trailer here.

High among the solutions is that old standby, conservation. Transport, storage and heating of water are all major energy suckers. We have noted on this blog before now that up to 30% of the carbon footprint of a southern California home is made up of energy used to transport water.

We’re increasing the range of water conservation products available through the TerraPass Green Store. Through out new partnership with we’re now offering an expanded selection of products including low-flow showerheads and shower timers.

And if you’re interested in a more academic (but still engaging!) approach to water scarcity issues, be sure to check out David Zetland’s Aguanomics. Zetland is a big proponent of better management of water property rights, a topic analogous in some ways to carbon credits.

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  1. water enthusiast

    Another effective approach to managing water use is re-building urban waterways for recreation. Carbon from car travel to distant regional parks, and urban sprawl, are offset by providing attractive urban parks. Seasonal flood risk and water quality improve, as well.
    Paul Kibel’s book from the MIT Press – Rivertown: Rethinking Urban Rivers – provides case studies that chronicle the origin, and changes taking place in urban rivers in several US cities including: Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, San Jose, Salt Lake City, and New Orleans.
    A well written, informative, quick read.
    Check it out:

  2. AW

    Clean water is really an energy issue… to a large extent, just about anything is an energy issue if you can get enough energy. Water can be made potable and transported with enough energy, it’s making sure that doing that is a) cheap and b) sustainable enough to make it worth your while.

  3. JA

    I don’t live out west, but in California with the Pacific, why can’t desalination plants be built, powered by either wave, wind, or solar, to ease the water burden in those urban areas?

  4. Adam Stein

    Desalinization plants can be built, but 1) they are expensive, and 2) they require a lot of energy, which creates more carbon emissions.
    In the near term, it doesn’t really help to say that the plants will be powered by renewable energy, because overall our grid is still very carbon-intensive. In the long term (say, 100 years), I’m guessing that desalinization plants will be a much larger part of the water mix.