How the Drought Can Help Us Rethink Water Use

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jeremy Tilton fills a water tank for cattle in a pasture on August 3, 2012, near Cuba, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty)

The United States is currently in the worst drought since the 1950s, but the crisis hasn’t changed the fact that the average American uses 99 gallons of water at home each day.

During times like these, people listen when they are told to limit lawn-watering and car-washing. But the water still flows when we turn on the tap, and the prices of water don’t change. When the drought is over, our wasteful ways return and water remains an invisible and largely unthought-of resource.

Charles Fishman, the author of “The Big Thirst: the Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” explains how the drought can be used as an opportunity to re-imagine the way we use and conserve water.


Charles Fishman

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman and Jillian Weinberger

Comments [2]

John Pflaum, P.E. from Denver, Colorado

A very interesting discussion of a critical looming nationwide and worldwide crisis. As for the U.S., the American Society of Civil Engineers has published a "Failure To Act" document describing the need for funding of infrastructure improvements that include critical improvements to the nation's water and wastewater systems. The escalating costs of failing to act now are alarming. I would have liked to have heard Mr. Fishman's take on the Fracking Industry and it's use of significant amounts of water for deep underground injection for oil and gas extraction. I believe that this is an "unspoken" crisis, as the water used for injection is not only mixed with a cocktail of "proprietary" chemicals, rendering it undrinkable, and injected deep into underground strata and lost to the Hydrologic Cycle for likely hundreds, if not millions of years. If it ever does reappear, it is so contaminated with chemicals it would be useless anyway. Why isn't anyone raising this issue? In a similar fashion, how much water will be used, and effectively lost (unless there are plans to treat it) by mixing the tar sands in Canada with benzene and other chemicals so that it can be piped to the Gulf and exported?

Aug. 20 2012 11:47 AM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Restaurants and corner grocery stores are beginning to charge money for tap water IN Manhattan. For TAP WATER!
I'm sure the drought should make us all conserve water, however, it will also make people exploit the situation...They wanted to charge me a dollar for tap water in a coffee shop...I told them that I am going to the bathroom and drink from the sink after I bought my overpriced cup of coffee.

Aug. 20 2012 10:10 AM

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