I attended the recent interactive public hearing for a community wide planning process for how to manage the future of water for the Tucson and Pima County Community. The Regional Water Assessment Task Force offered an inside view of their thoughtful, comprehensive, and inclusive Think Tank processes. Their goal is to reach consensus in the community about issues of water use, availability, quality and management for our future in our region. Their themes are Coordination and Cooperation, Sustainability, Supply and Cost, Pricing and Funding. These are all critical issues for an intelligent and forward-thinking look at how to manage this most precious of all resources. You can see a copy of the overview of this presentation HERE.
Many of us would like this process to include and enhance a very challenging but critical approach to water: that of measuring, detecting, managing and preventing threats to to the quality of our water. This is a growing challenge, as we all know.
Understanding what is added to our water is complex. Part of the problem is associated with managing the storage, distribution and transport processes. For us, this involves looking at the “Water-Energy Nexus”. Another critical part is knowing what we inadvertently or intentionally add to our water as waste products. Many water quality issues are very challenging and costly to manage. But we rely too heavily on the regulatory processes of national government (the EPA) to tell us what we must do and this can become a never ending game of catch up or actions taken too late. The Clean Water Act is critical but let’s do our part in working to prevent that which it must regulate.
Prevention and protection of water quality means reduction of the problems of water contamination from the start. Our water planning in our communities must be innovative and proactive. Let’s think of a few such approaches:
Look at the water-energy nexus for how energy, used for pumping water may not itself be clean or sustainable. Coal burning power plants produce many life threatening chemicals (such as lead, mercury, arsenic, etc.) that end up in our water table and expose surrounding communities. Use solar or wind power for pumping and prevent these exposures.
Every day, we all contribute to pharmaceutical contamination of our water with such things as “endocrine disrupters” and much more. We can create safe drug disposal programs, safe waste handling programs for toxic chemicals, strong local regulations to prevent toxic dumping, or broad education and action on use of safer organic chemical products in our communities.
Industries dump toxic chemicals. We can develop major, multifaceted and visible community education and prevention programs to stop introduction of pharmaceutical and other chemical contaminants into our water by business and individual members of our community. Toxics should not end up in our drains, rivers, lakes, streams, washes, or groundwater.
We can be innovative, energetic and proactive when it comes to water quality. Let’s not leave this challenge up to the slow and arduous progress of research, which slowly percolates into the bureaucratic processes of regulation. Regulation is necessary for when we fail at Prevention and for guiding community safety standards. However, the data is out there now for our own proactive use in our communities.