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City faces 4-million fine if water use exceeds expectations

Metropolitan Water District, the regional water supplier, will tally up Thousand Oaks’ water use to see if consumption was 15 percent less than the year before. If not, a $4-million fine will be imposed on the city’s water company.

City faces 4-million fine if water use exceeds expectations.

The Story of Bottled Water

The Story of Bottled Water by Madeline Ostrander, senior editor of YES! Magazine.

Worried about what’s in your tap?

That’s exactly what the water bottling industry hoped when it developed brands like Dasani, Perrier, and Poland Springs, which promise to be “natural,” “pure,” “clean,” even “sexy” alternatives to tap water.

But the very companies that market those brands, like Nestlé and Coca Cola, are putting public water supplies in jeopardy in communities both in the United States and overseas. They’re selling us a product that is often not any cleaner than tap water, and is a lot pricier.

Bottled water is a scam. The simplest way to understand why is to watch a new, short film released today by the creators of The Story of Stuff. Like its predecessor, The Story of Bottled Water uses simple language and surprisingly charming stick figures to walk you through the perils of the bottled water economy. “Bottled water costs about 2,000 times more than tap water,” says Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and director. “Can you imagine paying 2,000 times the price of anything else? How about a $10,000 sandwich?”

The Story of Bottled Water film still

Bottled water often comes straight from the tap, sometimes with a little filtering, sometimes not. It is not necessarily safer. For instance, in 2004, the Coca-Cola company had to recall all of its Dasani water from the United Kingdom, after officials discovered the water exceeded the legal limit for bromate, a carcinogen. The Environmental Working Group recently tested 10 brands of bottled water—on average, they contained eight chemical pollutants, no better than tap water.

But there’s something even more insidious about the way that the bottled water industry preys on our public water systems and tap water. Water is both the most basic of human needs and a product of nature. It can’t actually be manufactured, so bottling it up and selling it always means removing water from a public source. As the bottled water market has taken off, we’ve seen public water fountains begin to disappear. Meanwhile, citizens in rural towns have begun to take notice that water-bottling companies are trying to sell off water that actually belongs to them. Communities like Barnstead, New Hampshire have fought hard to keep Nestle from bottling and shipping away their local water.

China’s Living Water Garden
Photo essay: Chengdu’s most popular public park is is a 5.9 acre inner-city natural water treatment system.

We’ve gotten used to thinking we have more than enough water to go around in this country, but it’s not true. According to experts like Peter Gleick, the United States is facing a water crisis that will only get worse in coming years. Already major water supplies like the Ogallala Aquifer and Lake Mead, which together supply water for millions across the Southwest and Great Plains, are in big danger of running dry. Climate change is going to alter everything we know about water—how much stays in our reservoirs, how much snow falls in the Sierras, how our rivers flow, and how much we have available to drink, irrigate our crops, and water our lawns. When we let a private company control, bottle, or sell our water—whether it’s Coca-Cola or the private water operator Thames—we’re giving up some measure of control over our health, environment, lives, and futures.

In May, YES! Magazine will unveil a full issue about how to protect our water and keep it clean and accessible. You’ll read about radical breakthroughs in contentious Western water wars, about a community that bought its water back from private control, about farms that are learning how save water by taking care of soil, and about ways to get all the water you need, even if you live in the heart of the desert.

In the meantime, you can celebrate World Water Day by watching The Story of Bottled Water, and read more about campaigns to protect water in our online and magazine coverage.


Madeline Ostrander

Madeline Ostrander is senior editor of YES! Magazine.

Interested?
Life, Liberty, Water by Maude Barlow
A global water justice movement is demanding a change in international law to ensure the universal right to clean water for all.

Red, White, Blue and…Green?

Red, White, Blue and…Green?

Posted using ShareThis by Rebecca Lacko, LA Parenting Examiner

Put a little green in your red, white and blue celebration

This Fourth of July weekend, Americans will light up more than 60 million barbecues and will roast about 150 million hot dogs and 890 million pounds of chicken and red meat. A yummy prospect for most picnickers, but consider that, according to Jason Green, coordinator for St. Petersburg College’s Office for Sustainability, “A typical party of 30 guests can create 80 pounds of waste.”

Not only is paper waste an environmental concern, but as Green reports, “It’s estimated that Americans using their grills will create the same amount of carbon dioxide as if 2,300 acres of forest were burnt.”

Think it ends with paper waste and CO2 emmissions? Think again. Fireworks contain potassium perchlorate, which gets into the soil, air and water and causes damage to the thyroid gland. Other ingredients include such heavy metals as barium and copper, which are toxic.

Party Like an Independent American, AND Minimize Damage to the Environment!

What are the best ways to celebrate the holiday season in an environmentally friendly way? Here are some ideas:

  • For July 4 parties, use real plates, silverware and cloth napkins and stay away from paper napkins, disposable paper plates and plastic utensils. If you must use disposable plates, buy plates that are biodegradable. Did you know that  disposable plates are now available that are made from corn, potato and sugar-cane pulp?
  • Throw a potluck party to share resources and carpool.
  • Prepare meals and desserts with locally-grown organic ingredients and free-range, grass-fed meats and poultry. (Bonus: they’re much more delicious!)
  • Balance your meat dishes with more sustainable vegetable-based items. Potato salad, anyone?
  • Provide recycling bins for glass bottles, cans and plastic — A must-do!
  • When BBQ-ing, use natural gas grills — they pollute less than charcoal grills. To make matters worse, over-charring meat produces toxic chemicals in the food itself.
  • Don’t shoot off polluting fireworks at home; instead, go to one of the city- or county-sponsored events.
  • Make your own natural insect repellent! Frequently reapply basic essential oils like lavender, rosemary and cedar wood. These oils can trick insects into thinking you’re a plant.
  • If you must use a DEET-based insect repellent, choose products with less than 20% DEET. Never apply over cuts or wounds; never apply on infants or if you are taking any medications; don’t spray in enclosed areas; and wash skin with soap and water after use.
  • Use environmentally-friendly cleaning products and cloths or micro fiber rags to clean up after the party.

    For more info: Learn more about the sustainable | SPC initiative

Am I GREEN? – What is “being green”?

I grew up in Germany, where “being green” wasn’t really an option. I remember helping my mom as a 6 year old, bundling up newspapers, carrying them to the cellar and storing them, until twice a year a truck came by and picked them all up. Back then there wasn’t really much paper trash, except the daily newspaper. Then we started collecting glass and driving it to recycling containers once a month or so.  Then came the “Green dot” or “Yellow sac”. We had to seperate plastic from envelopes, aluminum johgurt container lids from the plastic containers and we had to pull paper labels of tuna cans. Everything needed to be washed out, as we had to collect everything for 2 weeks until it was picked up. Because we lived in a small appartment, we had to make sure to clean every single item (including cans of cat food) to prevent nasty smells and infestation with flies, especially during summer (without Air conditioner). The yellow bags had to be kept inside until the day they were picked up on the curve. Each households then had a trash can and a stack of yellow bags. Then every household received a compost ‘trash’ can. The compost was picked up once or twice a month only – imagine the smell. BECAUSE trash service was expensive, everybody tried to have as little trash as possible. Compost pickup was free – so of course you make sure to compost as much as possible (and the county gets a good compost pile built up for their needs). When you go shopping to pay attention to the packaging the various products are packed in and start buying more and more products that use less packaging. When you buy bread at the bakery, they wrap it in a sheet of thin paper, not in 2 layers of plastic that makes it soggy anyway. (Do you know how much oil and water is needed to produce plastic bags? Oil we wouldn’t need to import if we’d all use reusable grocery bags – that are sturdier and better looking to begin with – you can even express opinions or your personality with these accessories). When you go shopping, you bring your ‘1 euro’ or plastic chip (the size of a quarter) and use it to ‘unlock’ your shopping cart; when you’re done, you bring back the shopping cart to the ‘station’ and get your chip (or euro) back (if you have been to Aldi, you saw the concept). It is a great way to prevent shopping carts from being abandoned in the parking lot and therefore eliminates the need for an employee that has to collect them and high insurance costs to cover damaged cars. When you buy beer, soda juice or sparkling water, you purchase it in cases (where you can mix varieties if you wish) and pay a deposit for each bottle and carrying case. You can then return it (at ANY) grocery or beverage store and get your deposit back. The bottles get washed and reused several times. If you have weeds in your garden, you pull them up by hand – it is good for the body and soul and doesn’t require the use of expensive chemicals that ruin our groundwater and end up in our drinking water, making us sick. I could go on and on – but I think you get the picture. If you live in Germany and don’t recycle, you pay a fine if they catch you. If you drive a vehicle that is not fuel efficient – you pay a lot more in taxes than others. If you don’t recycle – you’re frowned upon. So – it is a smart thing to do and you do your part as a responsible citizen.  I believe that is what qualifies for ‘being green” and I am very happy to see that more and more Americans realize, that we need to protect our resources, save money and live more responsibly by not leaving a huge footprint during our short time on this beautiful earth.

The drought is officially over. We can go back to our old ways…

The drought is over. 

That’s the word from Georgia’s top environmental officials. After years of water restrictions and conservation programs, water levels across the state appear to be getting back to normal.

The state climatologist says Georgia experienced the wettest spring season on record in 115 years.  In fact, Governor Sonny Perdue says heavy rainfall in recent months helped the entire state emerge from the worst drought categories, prompting restrictions on outdoor water use to be lifted for the first time since 2006. 

So, should we still conserve water? Absolutely.

Why should we conserve water?

 There are many good reasons to conserve water.

Water conservation can help meet future needs.

Water is a precious resource – our lives depend on it. In Georgia, the average consumption (residential, commercial and industrial, not agricultural) is 168 gallons per day, 10% higher than the national average of 153 gallons a day. An adult needs less than a gallon per day for drinking purposes, but 101 gallons per day are used in residential applications.

(Source: http://www.p2ad.org/files_pdf/cwmbs.pdf

Georgia’s population growth is among the most rapid in the nation. In the last decade, the state’s population has increased by more than 1.7 million. If current trends continue, Georgia’s population will reach 11.9 million in 2025. A doubling of demand for water over the next twenty years is highly probable. Given that drought-prone Georgia already uses a relatively high share of its land for residential purposes, future population growth will have a meaningful impact upon the supply of fresh water. As more and more faucets drain the aquifers, or underground reservoirs, urban sprawl paves over the land and short-circuits its absorption properties. Georgia’s fast-growing cities face water shortages by 2020 unless local utilities find new supplies.

Saving water will save you money.

Conserving water saves you money! Not only will your water bill go down, but as you heat less water, your gas or energy bill will also decline. If your whole community conserves, you will also pay less fees for water-related services. Water conserving communities will not need to pay as much to develop new supplies and expand or upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure.

 The City of Atlanta has approved a 12.5% rate increase effective July 1, 2009 and another 12% increase in 2010.  

Approved Water and Sewer Rates City of Atlanta

Water conservation helps preserve the environment.

Quite simply, water is the essential component of all life. It comprises 70% of the Earth’s surface and 75% of the human body. Of that 70% of surface water, only 1% is actually drinkable. Water is needed to keep the ecosystem in balance. Clouds need water to make rain. Plants need water to grow. Animals depend on plants for the oxygen they produce and the food they provide. When one element of the chain is compromised, the entire system is thrown out of whack. Roughly 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming or hosting aquatic life. 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually.

 There are many obvious reasons for us to protect our water supply, but the most important point to remember is that water is absolutely essential to all living things. Educate yourself, dedicate yourself, and you can make a difference.

(Source: http://www.luminant.com/scholar/docs/EnvironmentWater.pdf)

A significant level of water conservation can be achieved without major changes in lifestyle. Simply watering landscapes properly and utilizing efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances in the home can reduce the per-capita water use by 25 percent.

Top 10 Myths about Sustainability: Scientific American

How do you explain Sustainability? I’s not all about the Environment, it is much more! I believe the best way to describe it is “don’t take more than your share”. “We have an economy where we steal the future, sell it in the present, and call it GDP [gross domestic product].”

Top 10 Myths about Sustainability: Scientific American

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