Thursday, 23 April 2015

A New Kind of Watering Hole – H20 Conservation

By Amy Bond
Sustainability Program Manager – US, at CBRE

Fresh beer on tap is taking on new meaning in the US. Particularly in the Pacific Northwest and may be an indication that the world water crisis is driving creative adjustments to manufacturing and consumption. According to the online publication Environmental Leader, “a plan to allow a wastewater treatment operator in Oregon to give its recycled sewer water to a group of home brewers who will then turn it into beer was approved by the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission earlier this week.” 

Given recent developments in the worsening water shortage in California, it’s now more important than ever to design new concepts for efficient water management. Water, after all, covers 70% of the Earth’s surface, less than 1% is drinkable, and is so critical to life one could argue the ‘green’ movement should instead be called ‘blue’ for the colour of the planet’s oceans, lakes and polar ice caps. 

It’s interesting to note that blue was not always considered a “cool” colour. In The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau, ancient Greeks scorned it as ugly. For the Romans, blue was the colour of barbarians and had negative connotations. Yet in modern European society, blue has had a complete reversal of fortune. Most Americans, as well as Europeans, now pick it as their favourite colour. The lineage of green’s societal standing is not as diametric as its cerulean counterpart. History reveals a consistent and cross cultural acceptance of the verdant spectrum with attributes ranging from health and prosperity to safety and serenity.

Any history of colour is a social history. Colour may be a natural phenomenon, but the symbolism and meaning attached is driven by human subjectivity. But, as evidenced in Pastoureau’s book, these values evolve in code and nuance over time.

Like colour, attitudes towards water conservation are changing. Water pragmatists are framing up a take-home message that’s affecting not only the welfare of future generations, but the literal green in their wallet. Improving water efficiency in the production of beverages and apparel won’t change the fact that agriculture is the largest user of water in all regions of the world except Europe and North America, accounting for 93 percent of water consumption worldwide. It will take near term bold and innovative action from all industries and individuals in regards to water consumption, irrigation, hydroelectric generation, and recreation to shore up this essential resource for long term health.

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