February 2008

Volume 17, Number 2

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Bringing Water Back into the Discussion

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Atlanta provided a wakeup call in 2007. With the city’s primary water source, Lake Lanier, almost dry and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue holding prayer vigils for rain, a region that normally sloshes in over 50 inches (130 cm) of rainfall per year was grappling with drought. The heavens may have heeded Perdue’s prayers (at least temporarily), but not before the region was awakened to the fact that water shortage isn’t limited to the chronically dry West.

Water shortage is becoming a reality in many areas of the United States—a result of growing populations, shifting precipitation patterns due to global warming, long-term precipitation patterns that may not have anything to do with climate change (there is some evidence that for the past several hundred years the West has been in a period of higher-than-normal precipitation), and unsustainable water-management practices. As a hint at what might be coming, friends of mine recently relocated from New Mexico to New Hampshire due to projected water shortages—deciding that they had to get out before their property value plummeted.

Water is also on the minds of the editors at EBN. We are concerned that most Americans treat freshwater as if it were limitless and free. But we are also encouraged that there are many cost-effective ways to reduce that consumption.

Our feature article this month begins a major focus on water during 2008. We last provided a comprehensive look at water conservation in the 1997 article “Water: Conserving This Precious Resource” (EBN Vol. 6, No. 8). While we have run many shorter and more targeted articles about water savings in the decade since, we believe the subject deserves greater focus today.

In this issue we address water-efficient products and technologies. Additional articles this year will cover alternative water supplies (for example, graywater, rainwater, and cooling tower blowdown) and how to achieve savings in potable water use through incentives, regulations, policies, and education. Through such coverage, we hope to bring the discussion of water more actively into the green building movement.

– Alex Wilson

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February 3, 2008