water-life-crop

Imagine a Day Without Water

 

Imagine a day without water.

 

Just imagine. Without water, how can you perform the daily routines in your life such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, using the toilet, cooking, cleaning, drinking, or washing clothes and dishes. What about water usage in communities for public use like restaurants, parks, hospitals, car washes, or in relation to farming and firefighting? Believe me I thought about it, but it’s kind of hard to fathom. The average person uses about 101.5 gallons of water per day. Many Americans tend to take water for granted while many communities around the country have already experienced a day without water.

 

Water Use 1

 

Water Use 2Philadelphia Water Department

Clean water is one of the key components to an adequate quality of life. Unfortunately, proper water access is inequitable in terms of geography and cost. There are over 1.6 million people in the United States that are affected by water insecurity with a lack of complete plumbing facilities. That figure does not include the millions of people accessing unsafe tap water despite the benefits of modern plumbing. Imagine being homeless with no access to water, or being part of a family that either can’t afford water bills or has such shoddy water infrastructure, water insecurity would be your daily reality.

We are facing a bigger challenge than most people think or want to admit. When we think of water, we think of this infinite supply that is a gift of nature to mankind. If nearly 70% of the earth’s surface is made up of water then what is the problem? Why is there an on-going push for awareness to conserve water? Well, out of the 70 percent figure just mentioned, less than 1% of that total is actually freshwater suitable for human consumption and usage. When considering the threats to this precious 1 percent of fresh water, such as population growth, climate change (increase in natural disasters, drought, flooding, and wildfire), outdated infrastructure, and pollutants from impervious surfaces, and many other threats not listed here, one can only conclude that this will lead to increased costs for environmental remediation, health hazards, food shortages, and other unforeseen issues.

There is an ongoing nationwide movement by the Value of Water Campaign to spread awareness about threats to clean water and infrastructures. Imagine a Day Without Water takes place on October 10, 2018 for its fourth annual day to raise awareness and educate America about the value of water. Anyone is able to participate! Environmental organizations, water and wastewater providers, public officials, business leaders, labor leaders, community based organizations, schools, engineers, and others are encouraged to be a part of this national education campaign to engage stakeholders, public officials, and the general public.  You can find examples of ways to participate here.

Here are a few tips on how you can conserve water throughout your day:

 

Brushing your teeth. Don’t keep the faucet running.

 

Showering. When running the faucet while you’re waiting for the water to warm,  place a container underneath the faucet to collect the cold water. Use the collected water to water your plants and lawn. Also, decrease the duration of your showers. You can purchase a shower timer to encourage shortened showers of 4 to 5 minutes.

 

Flushing the toilet. With every flush, older toilets can use from 3 to 7 gallons of water. Newer toilets reduced this amount to 1.6 gallons of water. Place a water bottle in the tank to reduce the amount of water needed to fill it. There’s also a tool called the Tank Bank which clips onto the side of the tank and displaces about 0.8 gallons of water with every flush.

 

Shaving. Fill the bottom of the sink with minimal water and use the water to clean your razor.

 

Cooking. Don’t let your faucet run while you’re cooking. Wash vegetables and fruits in a large bowl filled with water instead of using the faucet. Boil food in as a little water as possible.

 

Washing dishes/clothes. Wait for a full load to wash your dishes in the dish washer or your clothes in the washer machine. Consider a front-end loader washing machine to not only reduce water consumption, but water utility bills. The upfront higher costs will pay for itself after a few short months.

 

Your efforts can go beyond Imagine a Day Without Water. We should strive to become more conscious of our water consumption and become advocates for this precious supply that is essential to life. If we continue with our current trends then eventually there will be far more than 1.6 million people that won’t be imagining a day without water but living days without water.

 

Jazmin Kimble is an Urban Planner, Urban Designer, and Architectural Designer from Long Island, NY. She has a passion for empowering and planning adequate, equitable communities through the lens of Geodesign, Urban Design, Community Development, Sustainability, Environmental Solutions, and Community Engagement. Jazmin believes the culture and the history of a community is what makes it unique. This approach allows her to design with communities from a holistic viewpoint.

US Government Works

Just Leave It In the Past!

My grandmother used to tell me, “Some things just need to stay in the past.” As I have gotten older, I tend to agree with her.

Rolling back and weakening environmental regulations that protect human health and the environment shouldn’t become the norm; yet, over the past year, we have become bombarded with changes or threats to regulations in the name of business profits and/or potential job creation. Practices that further exacerbate health issues and pollute our environment should remain in the past. As a former facilities engineer and current business owner, I completely understand how regulations can increase operating costs for businesses. While in some cases profit margins may take a hit, health risks decrease, and the quality of life increases when we are good stewards of our environment.

US Government Works

US Government Works

Environmental protections were put in place because all businesses don’t operate with the protection of air, water, land, and people at the center of their operations. The United States of America is one of the world’s most developed nations and should be leading the pack when it comes to yielding new technologies that minimize pollution; but, for some reason, we are looking towards the past instead of the future.

Certainly, we don’t want to revisit a past where we witness places like Love Canal, which helped start the SuperFund Site program or incidents like the Cuyahoga River fire which was the catalyst for the Clean Water Act.

Over the past months, I’ve seen a number of headlines that caught my attention regarding the repeal or weakening of regulations related to asbestos, fuel economy standards, clean energy, and climate change. I could go on, but I won’t.

This is certainly not the path that we should take. I believe that we are better than this and we have to advocate for better policies while moving forward to reduce pollution, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and do our best to protect human health despite anyone enforcing us into good business. The health of our people and our precious resources have to take precedence over our profits.


Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC a community, multimodal, and environmental planning firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

Interstate highway 45 is submerged from the effects of Hurricane Harvey seen during widespread flooding in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Richard Carson - RTX3DKUO

The Impacts of Heavy Rainfall on the Environment

The recent rain events this past week caused extreme flash flooding throughout the Northeast region. Parkways, streets, and metro or subway stations in New York, Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Massachusetts flooded leaving motorists, pedestrians, and commuters stranded and exposed to horrid conditions. I have become worrisome, not particularly of the increase in the intensity and frequency of torrential downpours, but of our current incapacity and mismanagement to handle all of this water. Every time we face intense rain, I have to think to myself: What towns or streets will face flooding? Who would want to walk through a transit system with murky water past their ankles with absolutely no knowledge of what bacteria or toxins lurk in that water? How much more can our water systems take from the toxic materials and untreated wastewater due to outdated infrastructures and sewer systems? Are we really placing public and environmental health, safety, and the quality of life for all as a top priority? Climate change has brought an increase of rain intensity and frequency. Rainfall intensity is the measure of the amount of rain that falls during a period of time while rainfall frequency is the amount of times it rains during a specified period of years. An increase in air and water temperature brings an increase of precipitation.  But we cannot isolate climate change, we must also pay close attention to the factors that it engages with. I can certainly name a few: presence of impervious surfaces, lack of greenspaces, outdated infrastructures and sewer systems. All of these factors exacerbate flooding and can be detrimental to our water systems.

Impervious Surfaces…

The large surface area of impervious surfaces like roads, parking lots, and roofs, that have replaced our natural landscape, do not allow water to infiltrate into the ground and speeds up the process of rainwater runoff entering the drainage systems. The runoff and the pollutants collected from impervious surfaces are either turning into floods or entering our water systems at a faster rate than it can be managed.

Lack of Greenspaces…

This kind of ties in with impervious surfaces. I think it’s safe to say that the more impervious surfaces we create, the less access to greenspace we have. Greenspace is extremely crucial. It provides benefits such as reducing and filtering polluted stormwater runoff, reducing soil erosion, and improving air quality. When we lack greenspace, we have to deal with a lot of preventable challenges. With a lack of soil and vegetation to absorb and filter the rainfall, we experience flooding and overloaded sewers. With a lack of vegetation, we experience an increase in air temperature (Note what I stated earlier about the effects of an increase in air temperature).

Outdated Infrastructures and Sewer Systems…

The outdated infrastructures and the combined sewer systems were built only to hold a certain capacity of rainfall. In addition, transit systems and roadways aren’t effectively updated or repaired. Poor management leads our infrastructures to dilapidate and become swamps. In the recent floods, water leaked through the concrete vaulted ceilings of the WMATA Capitol South metro station. In a few of New York’s subway stations, water entered through the ceiling and stairways flooding the stations. Combined sewer systems are typically found in older cities. When the capacity of the system is surpassed, the untreated wastewater and stormwater runoff flows into our waterways or can back up into buildings through the pipes or overflow from the storm drains onto the streets.

 

GW Parkway

Flooding on the George Washington Memorial Parkway

GW Parkway at DCA

Flooding on the George Washington Memorial Parkway

Martha Custis Drive in Parkfairfax

Flooded street on Martha Custis Drive in Parkfairfax, Virginia

Capitol South Metro_02

Water leaking through concrete vaulted ceiling in Capitol South Metro Station, WMATA

Capitol South Metro

Flooding conditions in Capitol South Metro Station, WMATA

Flooded NYC Subway Station_03

Flooding conditions in NYC Subway Station, MTA

Flooded NYC Subway Station_02

Flooding conditions in NYC Subway Station, MTA

Flooded NYC Subway Station_03

Flooding conditions in NYC Subway Station, MTA

Now What…

With climate change there will be an increase of storm intensity and frequency, but how do we plan and design for worsening conditions? As the climate changes we must adapt our habits, the way we design, and our management of infrastructure. Stormwater management practices are used to reduce stormwater runoff, control flooding, reduce erosion, and improve water quality. These practices include green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), flood control reservoirs, and tunnels (SMART Tunnel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the Deep Tunnel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin addresses flash flooding and stores millions of gallons of overflow and sewage). Green infrastructure can be used to not only address our stormwater issues but to beautify our communities by creating healthy environments. Just imagine walking, driving, or riding your bike down a green street filled with a canopy of trees, native vegetation, GSI interventions, enhanced sidewalks, public art, and other street design features. A green street utilizes green infrastructure, improves public health and safety, and can even yield economic benefits.

We also have to contemplate all of the paved vacant lots or unused parking lots. For an example, malls all over the United States have an immense amount of parking.  What can we do with these spaces? These are opportunities to implement green infrastructure and green spaces for public spaces that can incorporate activities, pop-up spaces, farmers markets, etc.

In addition to the stormwater management practices, the timely repair and maintenance of infrastructure needs to be a requirement or else it will not function properly. Also, funding should be appropriately allocated to ensure that the proper solutions are identified and instated.

The strategies will not be the same in every location because the approach should be acclimated to the specific needs of that region based on in-depth analysis, research, and community engagement. However, with careful and purposeful consideration and action we can move in the right direction. I leave you with this: How can you be a part of the movement to create safe, equitable, and sustainable infrastructures and communities?

 

Jazmin Kimble is a Geo-Designer, Urban Designer, and Architectural Designer from Long Island, NY. She has a passion for empowering and planning adequate, equitable communities through the lens of Geodesign, Urban Design, Community Development, Sustainability, Environmental Solutions, and Community Engagement. Jazmin believes the culture and the history of a community is what makes it unique. This approach allows her to design with communities from a holistic viewpoint.





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