America’s Drought Brings Added Pressure To Our Aging Infrastructure

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – August 22, 2012 – Comment

When I’ve talked before about the important role water plays in our everyday lives inside homes and businesses, it’s mostly been focused around topics like showering, cleaning dishes, preparing meals and flushing toilets. But water keeps our houses and workplaces running in more ways than you probably imagine.

In the midst of a drought like we’ve been seeing across the country, it’s especially timely to address the economic impact of how a lack of water affects everything in our lives. As discussed in a recent NYTimes op-ed, “Our energy system depends on water,” and unless we embrace the actions and mentality of Total Water Management (TWM), we are at risk of blackouts or worse. TWM is essentially the idea of water stewardship applying to all water services – supply, quality, agriculture, energy/hydropower, flow management, and security against floods.

TWM focuses on the greatest good for society and the environment. The recent drought has only emphasized the possibility that the load-bearing capacity of the environment may be reaching a limit, and we can’t afford to waste or misuse water. Currently across the nation, more water is used for the energy sector than for agriculture, which means that a lack of water in a drought situation is affecting much more than the price of crops, which of course is dire in and of itself.

So what can be done to mitigate this problem? Water infrastructure upgrades are a crucial part of making sure our national system can run efficiently. And utilities, industry and developers can also take action by using reclaimed water for irrigation, golf courses, heating-cooling and flush systems, and various industrial operations. These steps could save a significant amount of energy and cost, as well as conserve precious ground water as a resource for drinking.

Whether discussing drought, global warming, or pollution, we must focus the conversation on lightening the load and using TWM to every degree possible. As we’ve seen in just the past couple months, when a system already under strain and in need of upgrade is burdened further, the threat of inaction affects our livelihoods on a massive scale.