Tuesday, September 01, 2015

California Water Savings: “We never thought [conservation] was a bad thing."

Every change has consequences.  From the LA Times:
 ". . .  in a paradox of conservation, water agencies say the unprecedented savings — 31% in July over July 2013 — are causing or compounding a slew of problems.
   Sanitation districts are yanking tree roots out of manholes and stepping up maintenance on their pipes to prevent corrosion and the spread of odors. And when people use less potable water, officials say, there’s less wastewater available to recycle.
   Water suppliers, meanwhile, say the dramatic decrease in consumption has created multimillion-dollar revenue shortfalls. .  . 
   “It’s unintended consequences,” said George Tchobanoglous, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis. “We never thought [conservation] was a bad thing. Every citizen thinks he or she is saving mankind, and I’m sympathetic, but it just so happens that our basic infrastructure was not designed with that in mind.”
. . .   Shorter showers, more efficient toilets and other reductions in indoor water usage have meant less wastewater flowing through sewer pipes, sanitation officials say. With less flow to flush the solids down the system, those solids are collecting and can eventually damage pipes.
   “The costs that we’re going to face due to corroding pipes is going to be astronomical,” Tchobanoglous said. “It’ll dwarf everything else.”

Climate change costs are going to be much greater than anyone has really anticipated.  Every change will have hidden costs because the infrastructure was designed to be used differently.  The more we cut down on carbon use now, the less staggering climate change will be.  The costs of cutting back are tiny compared to the costs of not cutting back. 

The president is talking about glaciers and saving them for our grandchildren to see.  But since most people in the world have never seen a glacier, losing sightseeing opportunities is the least of the problems global climate change is bringing.  It's the hidden, unforeseen things like the impact of less water in the LA sewer system that will eventually cost people in convenience and in dollars.

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