Now that I have had fun with Jennifer Aniston it's time to get back to the serious stuff.
I have been meaning to post my impressions of the Tanner Center's Water, Conflict, and Human Rights: Emerging Challenges and Solutions Conference at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in late February. Now's my chance.
On the Tanner Center's WWW site there is a short video interview with Dr. Tom Maloney, Director, about the conference. Here are videos of the presentations (mine is in Panel Four, about 25 minutes in). The Center may put up the panelists' abstracts and presentations; check in a few weeks.
Here is the program:
Opening Keynote Address & Reception
The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water
Wednesday, February 23rd
7:00 — 9:30pm, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Dumke Auditorium and Great Hall
Keynote Speaker Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians (Canada’s largest public advocacy organization), and founder of the Blue Planet Project. The Blue Planet Project works internationally for the right to water.
Conference Panel Discussions and Keynote Address
Thursday, February 24th – Friday, February 25th
9:00am, University of Utah, Officers Club at Fort Douglas
Panel 1: Water demand: population growth, economic development and energy
Panelists: Zach Frankel, Founder and Executive Director, Utah Rivers Council; Anya Plutynski, Associate Professor, Philosophy, The University of Utah; Dennis Strong, Director, Utah Division of Water Resources
Panel 2: Water privatization: inter-basin water transfers, democracy, and human rights
Panelists: Susan Spronk, Assistant Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa; Simeon Herskovits, Director and Chief Counsel, Advocates for Community and Environment; LaDawn Haglund, Assistant Professor, Justice and Social Inquiry, Arizona State University
Panel 3: Water quality, ecosystems and their restoration, community well-being and public health
Panelists: Dan McCool, Professor and Director, Environmental Studies, The University of Utah (Note: McCool could not speak; Bob Adler of the UU S.J. Quinney School of Law spoke.); Joy Zedler, Professor, Botany, University of Wisconsin; Walter Baker, Director, Division of Water Quality, Utah Department of Environmental Quality
Panel 4: Water conflict case studies: stakeholder mediation, dialogue and lessons learned
Panelists: Joseph Dellapenna, Professor of Law, Villanova University; Madeline Greymountain, Member, Confederated Tribes of Goshute Reservations; Michael Campana, Professor, Hydrogeology and Water Resources, Oregon State University.
The Water Crisis, New Solutions, and the Role of the Human Right to Water
Thursday, February 24th
12:15 – 1:30pm, University of Utah Law School, Moot Courtroom
Peter Gleick: Co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California. His research and writing address the critical connections between water and human health, the hydrologic impacts of climate change, sustainable water use, privatization and globalization, and international conflicts over water resources.
I've already given my impression of Maude Barlow's keynote speech so I won't repeat that. Here is our picture with friend Dorian Roffe-Hammond, who drove 12 hours from his new home in Lincoln, NE (he's now a graduate student at UNL) to attend the conference.
Peter Gleick, whom I had not seen in almost none years, gave his talk on the water crisis, new solutions and the role of the human right to water. Very thorough.
He listed elements of the crisis:
- Populations continue to grow - still too many people without access to clean water and sanitation
- Water quality degradation (see quote below)
- Food and water: 30-40% of the world's food is grown with unsustainable groundwater
- Conflict between humans and ecosystems
- Water and politics: volatile mix for conflict
He noted a need to do things differently - taking the 'soft path' approach.
With regard to supply: rethink it. Use surface water - groundwater conjunctive use; groundwater storage; treated wastewater. Practice demand management. Protect water quality. Use smart economics and institutions.
And note that water is a human right and an economic good. We need to figure out how to make it work. Gleick then noted that the human right to water ('HRW") is not found in many documents. It is not in the USA's Constitution. Why not? The Founding Fathers probably felt that it was not needed because it is so obvious. Or perhaps it is a derivative right - essential to other rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness).
He then discussed the HRW and its utility. Many people decry the HRW, sayng that it will do nothing to improve access to water (and sanitation). I disagree, and so does Gleick. He listed some reasons why the HRW is important.
- Encourage the meeting of responsibilities
- Increase pressure to translate the HRW into action
- Maintain spotlight on bad water management
- Help set priorities
- Be the right thing to do.
So what other things are worth mentioning? Too many, but here are some stream-of-consciousness thoughts:
Population increase as a contributor to water shortages was mentioned a number of times. It contributes to Utah's situation as well as the world's. We forget that increasing population exacerbates shortages and further degrades water quality and ecosystems. It's time to emphasize this factor.
With resepct to water supply, Utah seems to be on another planet when compared to other states. There is concern about future water availability, yet conservation has not taken hold and the focus seems to be on supply. I noted this at a meeting in SLC last spring:
One thing I did not hear much about was any kind of demand management. The water supply talks were more about finding more sources of water to fuel Utah's growth, which could reach 4.5M residents by 2030.
I did find more mention of conservation and demand management than I did last spring. But not enough.
- Compare this: the summer rate for domestic water use in Provo, UT, is $0.64/1000 gallons; in Seattle, WA, it is $5.60/1000 gallons. Guess where they use more water? The same type of situation existed in a comparison between between a Utah city (Sandy, I believe) and Tucson, AZ.
- There are just 9,000 acres of ag land left in Salt Lake County, yet those 9,000 acres have 125,000 acre-feet of water rights. Go figure.
- Another interesting note: 25% of Utah's state legislators are involved in the real estate industry. Growth, anyone?
- Privatization seemed to be anathema to some of the panelists.
- Basic HRW must be implemented at the community level.
- The link between food, water and (to a lesser degree) was emphasized.
- Pat Mulroy is not universally beloved in this neck of the woods (graphic from the Las Vegas Gleaner).
Disturbing fact: there are areas in the USA where populations have diseases and afflictions analogous to developing regions. These are regions where residents often lack clean water and sanitation:
- Mississippi Delta
- Upper Midwest and Northeast disadvantaged urban areas
- Mexican borderlands
- Native American regions
Nice to meet Simeon Herskovits, the New Mexico attorney who took on the Southern Nevada Water Authority and short-circuited its plan to pump Snake Valley (UT-NV border) groundwater. He's a hero to many.
Great people were there - not just the panelists but the locals, too. The conference was free, and the UU folks took wonderful care of the panelists: Barbara Tanner, Victoria Medina, Aleta Tew, and Tom Maloney. I also want to thank Steve Burian, who suggested that I be invited.
Well, my notes and memory have run out. I have barely scratched the surface of the subjects discussed, but you can view the videos.
"It is easy to throw something into a river but difficult to take it out." -- Kashmiri proverb (from Peter Gleick)