Monthly Archives: April 2014

Global Water Crisis

The water crisis, both current and future, includes a lack of water (drought) and a lack of access to clean (fresh) water. Water is vital in our daily lives in amounts that we tend to loose track of. During a crisis, water is a top concern that ranks above the need for food. You can die without water in about three days. Drinking contaminated or polluted water spreads several diseases that can kill you. Let’s take a look at this major issue that is not going away without some prior planning.

Some of the things that drove me to write this post:

>Reports that the large aquifer in the Midwest, Ogaliata, being depleted faster that it is renewed. Irrigation of croplands is sited as the main concern but many states rely on this for drinking water as well.

>FEMA reports on the severe drought in the USA. Drought is not a new issue. In 1988 the drought and heat wave killed an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people. California and the Midwest continue to suffer with conditions expected to continue. Islands are especially vulnerable (see the case of the Marshall Islands). For more see http://www.ready.gov/drought

This is another risk that many would put in the top ten, maybe top five, with a high probability that should be addressed in any pre-crisis planning. But more times than not the crisis passes and everyone goes back to the same wasteful practices that contributed to the crisis in the first place.

When you think about a water crisis, you realize it touches all of the 3C’s – Corporate City Community. There are things individual homes can do in a city or community that go a long way to easing the daily water demand. That daily demand can run into the hundreds of gallons per individual. It is easy to see how a few adjustments can go a long way and save on your monthly water bill at the same time. The city can impose restrictions on water use but enforcement is spotty and relies too much on voluntary compliance. The city can restrict the sale of free flowing water devices.

Another way the city can address the water issue is working on or building the infrastructure to handle water runoff and sewage with a diverse plan instead of a central facility. A related risk to drought is surprisingly flooding. Heavy rain, if not handled correctly, will lead to flooding of streets and waterways in residential and commercial areas with debris and mold issues to deal with.

One of the main themes of a 3CFortress is to reclaim the water used by the facility. I can’t overstate how key this point is. Millions of facilities rely on fresh water getting to their site and pay good money for this. Why in the world would you use this fresh water only to dump it out via the sewage line? Figure out a way to process the water on site so that it is compatible to the costs of getting it there. Recycling water can be cheaper than treating it at a central facility and distributing it from there. Water storage of fresh, gray and black will be needed with the capacity to handle the daily use of all the occupants.

Overseas you will find that not all water is turned back into fresh or potable water. It is time, in the USA, we start thinking this way. So called gray water can be used in many ways without a threat to the general health and well being of the community. Reuse of gray water means less treatment costs. I saw this working as a private security contractor in Iraq. Forward Operating Bases or compounds used by Westerners had to deal with this issue or suffer the consequences. Many hotels will warn that the tap water is non-potable or don’t drink it. When bathing, don’t get the water in your mouth. It is advisable to use bottled water for brushing your teeth. Is the USA ready to make these changes? Doubtful without a great deal of education on this matter.

The severe drought is a major event that is driving some changes to be made. It is possible that change will be avoided leading to another Dust Bowl scenario. How much is irrigation of crops really costing us? If that irrigation was not possible what are the impacts to our agriculture industry? Devastating if not handled in the short term. Traveling through Nebraska a few years ago I saw what happens when irrigation water fails to reach the crop, in this case corn. Hard to miss the two or three foot high brown corn stalks on the edges where the irrigation water didn’t reach it. It showed me that the normal rainfall for that areas was not enough to support growing that crop. Severe drought turns into a disaster when farmers find out that the irrigation water will not be available.

After reading this far and thinking about the water crisis issue I hope you get a sense of the urgency needed to address and provide a plan to mitigate it. If the amount of rainfall is below normal amounts it would seem obvious that we have to adapt and improvise with the water we do have available. Misuse or inefficient use of water will not resolve the water crisis and most likely will make any future event more severe.  The probability of a severe water crisis is too high to ignore. Planning, both short and long term, needs to start in earnest as reacting in the middle of a crisis can lead to business closures, shutdowns and needless deaths.

Quick Tip – Reclaim and reuse water from commercial and residential areas. In other articles I said to think of a home or building as a giant RV (Recreational Vehicle). Capture the gray and black water for recycling back to site use or back into the environment in a non-polluting way. Sending it to a city water treatment facility should be on the decline, replaced by on-site treatment. Think of this like the solar energy trend where local sites send excess energy to the grid. There are companies looking into this, Veolia for one. This is just one way to handle the water crisis and be better prepared for a disaster.

Look Who’s Talking – An article in USA Today titled, “Damon seeks water everywhere for all”, Friday, January 24, 2014 jumped out at me. Here is a quote from Matt Damon at the Davos Economic Forum:

It’s just unthinkable to those of us who grew up in America or Canada that anybody could ever lack access to clean water”    – Matt Damon

The article shows that water is a global concern but no just in Third World countries. Matt cofounded water.org with Gary White that seeks to address the 1 billion people that lack a safe and consistent way of getting water and the 2.5 billion people that don’t have regular access to a sanitation facility. They have a micro-finance program on the web site that is very interesting. A sister site by David Winder, WaterAid, was mentioned. The article closed with a statement that the water crisis is a top 10 global risk for 2014.

What Do You Think? Is this a top risk addressed in your crisis plan or Continuity Operations plan? Are you ignoring it? Is your company or city ignoring it or addressing it?