One Latte with Change, Please.

Suddenly, they’re everywhere. Jaw-dropping “water footprint” numbers are marching through mainstream media channels, but I have some nagging problems with most examples I’ve seen. One, they usually gloss over how the numbers are calculated, which invites skepticism. And two, outside of the broad advice to “save water” there are rarely concrete suggestions of what we’re to do about it. And third, is the ending missing? What about the water cycle? Aren’t all those molecules still around, somewhere?

One stat burning the wires over the past several months: one cotton t-shirt = 2,700 litres of water. Aside from the fuzzy math, what’s being suggested here? Wear rayon? Crash diet? Go shirtless? What? And don’t even go there with the “organic cotton” platitudes. This particular article from concludes,

What’s the bottom line when it comes to cotton? Before you buy that cotton t-shirt, keep in mind what your water footprint is, and who and where the production of your purchase is really going to affect. Because ultimately, that water could be used for other things.

Huh? That reminds me of when my parents would admonish us to clean our plates because “children were starving in Africa;” we, of course would reply, “well, let’s send this food to them!” Many “water footprints” strike me as dumb and dumbed-down in the same way. Your not buying a t-shirt will not directly benefit the water-deprived of the world. And by oversimplifying a complex system, we encourage disbelief or worse, apathy.

My bottom line? Too much “GEE WOW,” very little “WHAT NOW.”

I think this video from WWF does a better job of avoiding the insinuation that we all deny ourselves latte and thus save the planet. It’s the bigger point that we need to rethink how we produce and consume just about everything, in our personal lives and businesses. But is it working? If you’d like an idea of the challenge in selling this concept to the broader public, have a look at the comment section for this video.

Buzzards DID foretell water misery for Gladewater!

Earlier this week, did you laugh at our juvenile superstitions over buzzards roosting atop the Gladewater, Texas water tower? Did you scoff at our contention that this was an unsettling, bad sign?

Well, look at this, left-brainers, we were right! The Feb. 26, 2009 reports the “breaking news” that LINE BREAKS LEAVE GLADEWATER WATERLESS.

The city of Gladewater was without water most of Wednesday after two breaks to a main water line in less than 24 hours.

The broken line was about 50 years old and connected the water plant to the Gay Avenue water tower, City Manager Jay Stokes said.

Due to the original break, Gladewater students didn’t begin classes until 10 a.m. Wednesday. After the second, the schools dismissed at 1:30 p.m.

“We had bottled water available for the students to drink, but there were health concerns involving the inability to use restroom facilities, so we dismissed early,” Superintendent J.P. Richardson said.
Schools will operate on a regular schedule today if the water problem has been resolved, he said.

City residences and businesses also were without water Wednesday.

“This is not a good position to be in,” Stokes said

“If we had a fire without adequate water pressure, it could be difficult to bring it under control. It’s also just uncomfortable and difficult for people to go about their daily business if they don’t have access to water in their homes and place of employment.”

The Drainage Problem that Grew…94 feet?

For every endeavor, there’s a “best of the best” list and if you’re with Roto Rooter, you’d aspire to this one. Each year Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Service surveys 4,000 field technicians to honor (spotlight?) the year’s ”five strangest items recovered from pipes and toilets over the course of the year.”

The list for 2008 includes cats, diamonds and this record-setting, traffic-stopping 94-foot-long root extracted from a drainge pipe at the Manatee County United Way office.

In June, Roto-Rooter Contractor Bart Mathis of Sarasota, Florida was called to the United Way offices in Manatee County. The building had a clogged courtyard drain that caused the office to flood whenever there was heavy rain. Mathis cut into the underground pipe and found a giant root mass filling the entire pipe. When the root wouldn’t budge, he hooked up his 4 wheel drive truck to it and dragged it out of the pipe. Roto-Rooter had to close off four lanes of traffic because the root turned out to be 94 feet long and stretched across the nearby roadway. The monster root is one of the longest Roto-Rooter has ever extracted from a pipe.

Snitch on that Water Hog the Easy Way

Watching your jerk-twerp neighbor thumb his nose at drought-driven water restrictions? Fuming as his sprinklers soak a perfect green lawn, under the cover of night, while washing his giant SUV on an ODD day?! And smirking at you while he does it? You’re MAD AS HELL, and you’re not going to take it any more!

If you live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, exacting revenge is just a few clicks away. Just download the County’s ready-to-go Sworn Witness Statement for Outdoor Water Use. It easy! It’s legal! It’s notary-ready with words like “sworn to and subscribed!”
UPDATE July 2009: This document is no longer available online, but I’ve archived a pdf copy here.

Fill it out, drop it by City Hall, and now it’s your turn to smirk while you watch his lawn go as brown as yours! Feel better? Good, but don’t start your own little micro water war. Make up, act neighborly and initiate some over-the-fence chatter about xeriscaping.

The Good NEW Days: We’re on AllTop!

The email last night that put me into respiratory arrest began,

Your site has been added to

If you’re not familiar with AllTop, it was launched last year by Guy Kawasaki; it aggregates scores of  RSS feeds on one single topic into a clean, easy page, grouped by site and displaying the 5 most current headlines for each site. Your site gets reviewed before it is included, and upon inclusion gets aggregated onto this “digital magazine rack.” This spares readers of having to fiddle with RSS feeds, while still getting fresh updates on their topic of choice.

So how did I land myself in such esteemed company? Not by myself! I definitely had some help! This is where “The Good New Days” part comes in.

Have you ever caught yourself disillusioned and thinking, whatever happened to the “good old days,” when community meant something? When neighbors helped neighbors? When both strangers and friends extended a helping hand, with no expectation of anything, without being asked, and gratitude as their only reward?

The answer is, nothing happened to it. Here in the ‘Net community, it was those very gestures that landed Thirsty in Suburbia on AllTop. Thanks, Thanks, Thanks, Dr. Michael “Aquadoc” Campana of WaterWired, The Institute for Water and Watersheds, American Water Resources Assocation (AWRA), and a host of other places where super-smart water people gather. Although we’ve never met, he was a “neighbor” who repeatedly helped me with no expectation of benefit to himself. It is people like him that make these the Good NEW Days and the ‘Net a place where community still means something. And I am so very grateful.

Now, regular readers of WaterWired know that A-Doc closes his posts with a quote. So in his honor, I impart some words of wisdom for him:

“Watch out who you’re hanging around with! Don’t you know you’re judged by the company you keep?” –Anonymous

The aesthetics of recycling: Water Bottle Waterfall

If you were at the Nuit Blanche Festival in Toronto, October 4-5, 2008, you’d have been fortunate to have viewed this spectacular installation. “Waterfall” by Katherine Harvey is described as a giant “duvet” of commercial fishing nets filled with dumpster loads of recycled bottles. Draped from the Ontario Power Generation building, it was dramatically lit from below so that viewers approaching might anticipate falling water but when closer to the piece will instead discover a mass of plastic refuse.

From Flickr, Photo #1 by Veggiefrog and Photo #2 by willy chan88.