I have read Bill Bryson’s book “A Short History of Nearly Everything” at least two times and always in awe at the number of planets that he surmises may be suitable for human life. When you listen to the NASA scientists involved with the determination of whether a planet could support human life, the critical determining factor is WATER! Remember the excitement with the Mars Rover? We are inseparable from the resource.
The concern is how do we, as water managers, connect people with the water issues of our time? Once water is in a stream or river, it is pretty easy to manage (except maybe flood loss reduction). The major issues are water demand, land use changes (increased impervious cover, loss of forests, etc.), wastewater treatment, and what humans put on the land that will eventually get into a water body. Most people are totally disconnected from the science and management of these issues.
We will never attain sustainable water systems (quantity and quality) unless we better engage the public. How many times have you heard the response to the question Where does your water come from? be “the tap”, with no more explanation. When I take my University of Pennsylvania class to visit the local water and wastewater treatment plants, it is always interesting to see the response to how much chemistry, biology, and physics is needed for an adequate treatment train. And issues are always changing.
For instance, in the past, a wastewater treatment manager would always abhor the use of a home garbage disposal, since it added more organics that had to be treated. Now, treatment plants that are capturing and using the methane off gases for heating and electricity, want as much organic matter as possible. Use that garbage disposal as much as you want!
We can do a better job engaging the public. Here are a number of connections that need to be made:
- Emphasize local water issues at all levels of formal education
- Increase knowledge of the different water issues around the world
- Connect people with nature. (This is critical for so many different reasons.)
- Improve adult education through Community TV, noncredit classes, town meetings, etc.
- Promote watershed management approaches, including engaging stakeholders in priority setting and implementation.
- Help people understand the connection between land use and water resources – how what they do in their backyard matters.
AWRA is helping this process, not only through this month’s Impact articles, but through our Specialty conferences. This year alone, the Spring and Summer conferences address human impact on water resources and suggested
- March 25-27, St. Louis, Missouri, Ag Hydrology and Water Quality
- June 24-25, Hartford, Connecticut, Environmental Flows
- June 27-28, Hartford, Connecticut, Healthy Forests = Healthy Waters
- September 16-18, Beijing, China Water for Mega Cities
Hope to see you there! …
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