Millions of Americans take water service for granted every day. Turn on the tap, and clean water flows out. Flush the toilet, and dirty water goes away. With reliable water service, most people don’t have to think twice about the infrastructure that brings water to their homes, and then safely returns water to the environment – but everyone should be concerned with the fragility of those systems.
On Imagine a Day Without Water, take a moment and reflect on the importance of our water resources and infrastructure.
America’s water infrastructure is aging and failing. Last week at the Building Sustainable Value for Impact: A Wealth Management Conference (co-organized by Greenleaf and DePaul University), Dr. Jon Foley of Project Drawdown reminded us that when we use water poorly it is not available when and where we need it. Water resources are collapsing all over the world; we need to learn from past crises such as the depleted Aral Sea in Eurasia where overuse and pollution devastated an inland freshwater system the size of Lake Michigan.
Greenleaf is working to address both water quality and water quantity through our work on the Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters symposium which looks at a whole systems approach to managing our agricultural lands and reducing nutrient runoff. We are also working with our board member Brian Richter of Sustainable Waters on evaluating market-based solutions to compensate farmers for water conservation practices in the Colorado River Basin. Work has been proposed with Resources for the Future and Jacobs Engineering to guide the optimization of water resources in northern Illinois and find solutions to the depleting aquifers in the region. Additional work is underway to address increased flooding, decreased water quality, and combined sewer overflows through our work with Opti’s stormwater management technology. As climate changes, we should expect greater impacts on how water resources are allocated across the globe.
While we reflect and Imagine a Day Without Water, we are aware of the many challenges ahead but I am encouraged by the leaders that are working to protect the health of our natural resources not only on water quantity and quality but also interrelated issues including climate and energy. And as Dr. Foley put it, we should strive to have our earth thrive.