Tag Archives: water

America throws away 40% of its food – under the supermarket model

One of my big ideas is to get away from the supermarket model in America. Not only has it made two-thirds of the country overweight or obese, but it also wastes an incredible amount of…well, everything.

From an NRDC report (pdf):

Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten….That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land. Moreover, almost all that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Nutrition is also lost in the mix—food saved by reducing losses by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables.

 

I’m convinced the supermarket model isn’t working and suggest we replace it with a more sustainable model. I’m writing a book to explain my solution, but here it is in three parts. A food system made up of farmers markets, non-profit food cooperatives, and for-profit markets.

I’ve traveled across the country and seen this model in effect and successful in large and small communities. It favors both the rich and poor, is sustainable and, best of all, creates quality jobs.

Continue reading

Alternative map of the American West – as sustainable water regions

From Mapping the Nation:

A beautiful–and extremely controversial–map made by John Wesley Powell…best known for his insistence the west must be understood as an arid region, one that demanded irrigation and management rather than a reliance on rainfall. In the late 1880s, Powell undertook a large-scale survey of the far west to demonstrate that the region was made up of interdependent watersheds, or what he termed irrigation districts.

And he brought this knowledge before Congress in 1890 asking them to use this map as the foundation for establishing Western states. At the time they were distributing large parcels of land – in no particular order – through the Homestead Act.

They didn’t listen and the dream of a sustainable West – without water problems – was lost.

 

Continue reading

How does water get to my house?

Through a series of pumps and electricity, from the USGS Water Science School:

Let’s assume that you get your water from the local water department through pipes buried below the streets. In other words, you don’t have your own well in your back yard. Chances are that you get your water through gravity and pumps. Cities and towns build those big water towers on top of the highest hills and then fill them with water. So even if you live on a hill, there’s a good chance the water tower is higher than your house. Water moves from the tower, due to gravity, and goes down a large pipe from the tower to eventually reach your house.

Although gravity supplies the power to move water from the tower to homes, electricity is needed to run a pump to push water from the source.

 

In my city, those water pumps use a lot of electricity. It is the second largest city expense, using 5.4 million kWh and costing more than $500K a year. (Energy Action Plan, page 21)

 

Continue reading

The photography of Aaron Goulding – peering inside the waves

If you want to peek inside the barrel or get up-close-and-personal with marine life, then you will love Aaron Goulding’s work. He loves grabbing those inside-the-tube shots and quiet ocean moments. But everyone wants a self-portrait of themselves catching a wave and in the barrel.

Enjoy a few of his photos and visit his company JAG Media Productions and like him on Facebook.

 

Continue reading

Federal government approves first wave powered project off Oregon coast

The wave park will include 10 buoys stringed together and linked to the coast through an underwater power cable. It is the result of six years of far-sighted research and development, and $10 million of funding.

From One World One Ocean:

Last month, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the country’s first commercial wave energy project off of the coast of Reedsport, Oregon. The 35-year license allows Ocean Power Technologies Inc. (OPT) to build up to ten 140-foot buoys, which will generate 1.5 megawatts of power – enough to power 1,000 homes. The first buoy is expected to be deployed in October.

 

For testing purposes only one PB150 Buoy (pictured below) will be installed 2.5 miles off the Oregon coast. Assuming no problems nine more will be placed in the waves, connected together, and begin lighting up Oregon homes.

 

 

The above picture is pulled from the projects Newsletter and Progress Report (pdf). You can also read about OPT’s technology and coverage from the N.Y. Times.

What uses the most water in your home?

The average person uses 80-100 gallons of water a day. But where is all that water used?

  1. Toilet – 27%
  2. Laundry – 22%
  3. Shower – 17%
  4. Faucet – 16%
  5. Leaks – 14%

 

image: EPA

 

Water stats:

  • Showers – 2 gallons/minute – bathtub holds 36 gallons.
  • Kitchen faucets – 2 gallons/minute.
  • Bathroom faucet – 1 gallon/minute.
  • Dishwasher – 4-10 gallons.
  • Laundry – newer uses 25 gallons/load – older 40 gallons/load.
  • Toilet flush – 3 gallons
  • Water the lawn – 5-10 gallons/minute

Residential water trends for the United States

Here is a report that studied water trends from the past 50 years (pdf) and found both good/bad news.

The good:

A household in the 2008 billing year used 11,678 gallons less water annually than an identical household did in 1978.

To investigate the causes of this decline, a local study of statistically representative households of the LWC was conducted in Louisville. Adjusting for weather, water use per LWC customer fell from 208 to 187 gpd between 1990 and 2007, a decline of 21 gallons.

 

The bad: declines are leveling off.

Most homes have installed low-flow appliances and that accounted for the biggest drop. There was a drop in family size, from 3.38 to 2.59, and that’s not going any lower.

There were no recommendations for next steps. Future declines may be up to us.

Continue reading

How many baths could I get from a rainstorm?

From the USGS Water Science School:

Let’s say your house sits on a one-half acre lot. And let’s say you get a storm that drops 1 inch of rain. You’ve just received 13,577 gallons of water on your yard. A big bath holds about 40 gallons of water, so if you could save that inch of water you could take a daily bath for 339 days!

 

A great reason to get a rain barrel and collect all that water. Place it underneath your gutters and you’ll have an endless supply of water for your garden. Be a water warrior!

 

Continue reading

Become a water warrior – 9 recommendations for water conservation

It’s hard to commit to using less water because it involves everything fine and delicate: cleaning our bodies, our food, and our clothes. We have a level of comfort with cleanliness and nobody wants to be smelly. The United States is particularly obsessed with this (“Cleanliness is next to Godliness”). We use nearly as much water as China and they have four times the population.

And water conservation is a worthwhile cause, from the EPA:

In the last five years, nearly every region of the country has experienced water shortages. At least 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages by 2013, even under non-drought conditions.

We are in a drought.

Keep that in mind with these water conservation tips. Approach them with caution, do a little at a time, and find your comfort level. At times you may go too far and that is okay. Often I go too long without showering and am reminded, it’s time.

Water use in the home covers four areas: kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and outdoors. Which I break down into two categories – turn-off the running water and change your habits. The first is such a common sense idea, but we frequently keep the water running without doing anything. When you brush your teeth for 2 minutes and use the running water for 5 seconds. Or, when you pause in the shower to lather and ignore the gushing stream behind you.

I daresay these are easy changes:

  • Brushing teeth – brush, floss, and don’t turn on the water until you rinse your toothbrush and mouth. Use a cup to save even more water.
  • Cleaning dishes – Use running water after you scrubbed your dishes. A moist sponge can get you 90% clean. Make sure to place other dishes to collect the run-off.
  • Washing hands – turn off the water while you soap your hands.
  • Lathering in the shower – turn off the water for a few minutes while you lather, turn on to rinse off.

I know these are simple and common sense, but they are also habits. Repeated practice can save bucketfuls of water. Remember, the average American uses 100 gallons of water/day!

The second recommendation is for the water warriors. These require true determination, involving a substantial change:

  • Shorter showers – Five minutes is the goal, but four minutes will make you a legend.
  • Wash your clothes half as much – many clothing items, like jeans, can go weeks without washing.
  • No more dishwasher – some say that a full dishwasher is more efficient than hand washing, but the average dishwasher uses 4-10 gallons of water. Can you use less?
  • Watering the lawn – water less and less until you notice the grass slightly brown. That is the ideal amount to use.
  • Recycle gray water – Keep a pitcher next to the sink for recycling gray water. This is water free of soap and chemicals but containing food bits and such. Give it to your plants because they don’t mind a little dirt.

I have tested these recommendations and found them very livable. It took a few weeks to learn each habit, but now I’m proud of my water use. I think I’m becoming a water warrior!

Maybe I’m ready for the big challenges.

 

Continue reading

Are you aware much of the U.S. is in a devastating drought?

From the Union-Tribune - Historic drought ripples across Southwest:

It’s been a brutal summer…in the upper Colorado River basin. The drought that’s spanned the nation for months has wrung out the Rocky Mountain region where much of the West’s water is produced. Residents of northwestern Colorado are watching gardens fail, crops wither, forest fire threats grow, reservoirs shrivel and businesses founder as water restrictions tighten for both farms and cities.

 

It’s causing billions of dollars in damage, but not receiving much media attention. I’m only aware of it through a conversation with a farmer at the farmers market. He said we are all hoping for a wet fall and winter, or things could get really bad.

 

Continue reading