Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Take, Make, and Waste Engineering Approach

Pick up a copy of Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis by Cynthia Barnett.  Take a look at Chapter 6 - The Water-Industrial Complex.  Barnett gets her noise under the green curtain of engineering consulting and the water business. 

Much to protect in the context of the status quo - - and engineers that work for the public sector like their status quo.  From the book:

"What the report never points out is that our water-management approach itself is part of the problem.  In addition to new projects, utilities want billions of dollars to rebuild the nation's  aging water lines, sewer mains, and treatment plants, many built more than a hundred years ago.  True, these systems are leaking, collapsing, and overflowing.  But often missing from the debate is the idea that rather that prop up failing systems, we should invest in new ways of living with water.  Economist Valerie Nelson, director of the Massachusetts-based Coalition for Alternative Wastewater Treatment, says our waterworks have reached the classic run-to-failure moment, when it becomes more efficient to invest in something new than to repair the old.  It's like the tipping point at which it's not worth replacing the transmission in your clunker.  Instead, you save every last dime for a new car, maybe even a hybrid.

In the mid-1880's, the country began building pipes that carry clean water into cities, another set to carry wastewater out, and yet another to rid cities of stormwater.  Sticking to this big-pipe approach is like holding on to your grandparents' Buick Roadmaster from the 1950s - and paying large repair bills to keep it running for thirteen-mile-a-gallon commutes in the modern city.  "The traditional linear 'take, make, waste' approach to managing water increasingly is proving unsustainable,' says Glen T. Daigger, president of the International Water Association.  He is also senior vice president and chief technology officer at CH2M Hill, the Colorado-based company that is consistently one of the top water-engineering firms in the nation - where he has worked for more that three decades.  Climate change and growing global population now have him calling on his own colleagues to change their mega-project approach."

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