Combating the water crisis: Time for action

Photo by Kaley Patterson

Photo by Kaley Patterson

Casey Brown and Kaley Patterson
Collegian Staff

Oklahomans, like many other Americans, are experiencing drying wells.

Robert Glennon, the second speaker for “Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities,” shared his knowledge of the current state of America’s drought, and give suggestions on how the nation can move toward sustainability on Nov. 18.

According to Glennon, water shortage is a solvable problem but comes with expensive adjustments; America cannot continue its current water practices.

The results of decades’ worth of consultation, analysis and expertise have appeared in his two books: “Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters” and “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It.” He has appeared in various print and broadcast publications, including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and “The Daily Show.”

Despite the growing fear of running out of water and the increasing complacency with each temporary repreive, Glennon believes this is a time for America to act. He said a crisis is an opportunity for action.

“It’s a time when we have choices to make, whether we go down one path or another path,” he said. “We have real, viable options. Now what we really need, what you need in your community, is the political will and the moral courage to act. That’s the bottom line.”

Currently, America uses outdated infrastructures and solutions for attaining and retaining water. Glennon pointed out three areas that worked in the past, but are now insufficient.

Diverting from rivers used to be a common and effective practice, but recently, rivers have dried out and not refilled their bases. Glennon said this chain reaction is due to two other methods: damming and drilling ground water.

America has built one dam a day since Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence, as Glennon pointed out, but he also said the dam-building days are over. Today, more dams are torn down than built up. There’s nowhere else to build dams, and possible sites are controversial and expensive.

Drilling ground water for wells and irrigation has caused soil erosion, sink holes and fissures. Glennon believes there is a solution to the increasing causes of drought, but his belief does not involve the trades of the past.

He suggested three ways Americans could re-strategize their habits.

Desalination, the process of purifying salt water, is an option but can be expensive and difficult to implement. However, while Oklahoma is land locked, using a de-sal plant here would be less expensive, Glennon said.

“There are some areas where its not so salty as ocean water, but its brackish water,” Glennon said. “You wouldn’t want to drink it, but maybe you can build a de-sal plant around here to convert some of that brackish water.”

Reusing water, such as wastewater, is a conservation strategy because all the water received is treated for consumption but used for everyday tasks like flushing the toilet or watering the grass, which is a waste of time, money and water.

“Water that is going through the waste water treatment plant is water that we can use again,” he said.

Glennon also suggested conserving water, which Lawton already practices. The city of Lawton is under stage three water restrictions, which regulates the outside water usage. Glennon said individuals can further conserve water by throwing extra food away or putting it in the compost instead of using the food disposal to eliminate scraps. Residents should also turn off lights when not in use because electricity requires an extreme amount of water.

Beyond what America has done and can do, Glennon proposed what the nation should be doing. He first mentioned the need to rid flushing toilets and look for alternatives to dispose human waste. Currently, people are looking for waterless disposing options.

Glennon also suggested charging for water above basic human needs. He said water is less expensive than the average American’s cell phone bill because people aren’t actually charged for water, just for labor and services.

“The price is worse than low,” Glennon said. “You start to raise water rates, it is like [turmoil]. It’s going to take the rest of us to understand that we need to raise water rates.”

Furthermore, Glennon recommended reallocating current water rights.

Glennon repeatedly emphasized that Americans can and must do better, and the solutions of the old days are no longer working and will only make the crisis worse. He said it is time for action.


For more on Water sustainability, see “Q&A with Robert Glennon” or click here

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