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WATER/WASTEWATER//STATE OF THE SECTOR Not to single out Georgia, Glennon provided the DBIA audience with numerous examples from throughout the nation all illustrating what he calls the “Hydro-Illogical Cycle.” Simply put, drought is followed by increased awareness and concern; concern generates panic. Nonetheless, when rain arrives, apathy returns. Frankly, I was reminded of the seven stages of grief. Now that our love affair with limitless water is over, can’t we move away from denial and into anger or at least bargaining? Although Glennon’s talk, like his book, was peppered with quotes from sources as wide ranging as Coleridge and the Doobie Brothers, one struck me as particularly relevant to DBIA conference attendees. In 1910, when flush toilets were still a novelty most Americans did not yet enjoy, Theodore Roosevelt made the following observation, “Civilized people should be able to dispose of sewage in a better way than by putting it in drinking water.” When Glennon sat down with me after his keynote speech I couldn’t help but start our conversation there, with the flush toilet. Toilets are perhaps the largest single cause of wastewater in the United States today. Prior to widespread installation of indoor plumbing, per capita water use was approximately three to five gallons a day. These days, the average American uses around 200 gallons a day. The toilet is a major part of this consumption, as Glennon points out. “A California study found that toilet flushing consumes 32 percent of domestic indoor water use,” he says. “The Environmental Protection Agency reports that Americans use 24 gallons per day flushing toilets, although the use of low-flow toilets has decreased the amount. A more recent study suggests that we use two trillion gallons each year flushing—that’s a lot of water.” Glennon’s book makes clear that it wasn’t so much the rise of indoor plumbing that ended the great epidemics of dysentery, cholera and typhoid that plagued the United States throughout most of its history. Rather, it was the eventual realization that chlorination and filtration were necessary; until these practices were firmly entrenched, disease simply moved down river. By the time the generally accepted notion that rivers clean themselves was debunked in the very late 19th century, most cities had built combined sewage systems that carried both waste and storm water back to rivers and streams and the link between water/wastewater was firmly established. The infrastructure crises associated with our now aging water system today is one with which both Glennon and conference attendees are intimately familiar. But Glennon does not accept the idea of merely funding repairs and maintenance. “It makes no sense to simply rebuild the existing wastewater infrastructure,” he insists. “The water industry delivers exclusively potable quality water to peoples’ homes. But people only use 10 percent of that for drinking and cooking. That does not compute.” “One of the things design-builders can do is to figure out what the new system for getting rid of human waste should look like, Glennon told me. “We need to abandon the idea of ‘wastewater.’ We take all the water from our sewer system, treat it and get rid of it. Instead of one massive plant, we need smaller decentralized treatment plants so that we can reuse smaller quantities of water locally— and I mean water that has fecal matter in it. Take out the solids and pathogens and re-use locally.” Of course, there are other options for procuring new water supplies including desalinization plants. Glennon is not opposed to desalination but he only embraces it as a limited option for some obvious reasons: It is expensive, requires enormous amount of energy to produce and its highly concentrated salt byproduct is difficult to dispose of. “We can neither make water nor destroy it,” Glennon pointed out. “But we are using it faster than Mother Nature can replenish it. The epitome is the over-pumping of our aquifers. When you add in massive diversion of river and contamination that both agriculture and industry bring, it is obvious our supply is compromised.” While he explains the water crises as multifaceted and he offers a variety of solutions including more realistic water pricing and various market incentives for conservation, Glennon’s message to the DBIA water communit y is clear: “We should be supporting the industry of alternative waste removal. We squander enormous amounts of energy and water treating to drinking quality standards 90 percent of water that we don’t use for drinking and cooking. Design-build can solve that.” Read “Unquenchable,” desig n-bu ilders. You may be entertained and inspired and gain insight into creative solutions to our water infrastructure crises. 24 summer//2011 the quarterly publication of the design-build institute of america

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IQ Summer 2011: The Federal Issue

IQ Summer 2011: The Federal Issue

IQ Summer 2011: The Federal Issue - (Page Cover1)
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http://staging.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/DBIA/g32384_dbia_spring2013
http://staging.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/DBIA/g30201_dbia_winter2012
http://staging.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/DBIA/g27498_dbia_iq_fall2012
http://staging.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/DBIA/g27263_dbia_iq_summer2012
http://staging.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/DBIA/g27412dbia_iq_spr12
http://staging.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/DBIA/g24065_dbiaiqwinter11
http://staging.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/DBIA/g21862_dbia_fall_11
http://staging.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/DBIA/dbianxtbook_summer_11
http://staging.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/DBIA/g18240_dbia_spring2011a
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