What does water stress have to do with Aerosmith, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein and Tony Robbins? They have all been credited¹ with a variation of the saying “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
The second half of the truism, “you’ll always get what you always got” applies to water stress. We got all the water we will ever get. Now, if we only “always do what we’ve always done” everything would be just fine. However, we are not always “doing what we have always done” in both negative and positive ways.
What Negatively Impacts Water Stress?
Negatively impacting water stress include an ever increasing population and changing weather patterns. More people require more potable water and since we don’t all live next to a stream of pristine water or have wells, we need elaborate water distribution systems. The increased populous also desires more food and more energy for cooling and recharging all those new 5s iPhones. Most energy production methods also demand a lot of water. Additionally, many of areas experiencing high growth rates don’t have enough water to support the current population, so the water distribution systems have to be even larger and more energy intensive to pump water further distances.
Massive food production facilities to support an increasing population also require significant amounts of water. Some of the driest regions (i.e. arid west) have the perfect conditions to grow produce. From avocados to lettuce to watermelon nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown in California thanks to extensive agricultural irrigation systems. U.S. consumers regularly purchase several crops only produced in the very water strapped state of California.
Weather patterns shift naturally over time and regardless of the amount of rainfall a region normally gets, it is the rainfall the region needs. Significantly less rainfall in a region impacts plants, wildlife, industry, energy and in some cases, human existence.
Innovation Will Help Relieve Water Stress
Thank goodness for the high costs of water and limited water resources! Yes, you read that line correctly. As Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” A fine example is all the innovations² NASA developed to sustain an astronaut’s existence in space with very limited resources. Many of these innovations crossed over into our daily lives like memory foam beds in the 1980’s and the Speedo LZR Racer suit used in the 2008 Olympics to shatter swimming records. Who knows, maybe someday all new homes will include a Water Recycling System for Rapid Development currently being developed by NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
Water stress and the rising cost of water are major drivers behind innovations in landscape and irrigation. Smart irrigation controllers are getting smarter and the efficiency of irrigation heads are becoming more efficient. While some people may always want to do what is best for the environment it helps when there is sound economic validation for the customer to part with their limited financial resources for irrigation renovations or better irrigation systems for new projects.
So let’s be thankful for these water stressful times and be inspired to do something we’ve not always done, so we’ll get something we haven’t always got…more drops of water left in the world’s bucket.
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¹ – Henry Ford and Albert Einstein are often credited for variations of the saying. Although plenty of documentation of could be found, none of it is credible and their names may have likely been invoked for additional credibility.
² – Unfortunately in my research for this article I discovered that neither Tang nor Teflon can be attributed to NASA innovation.
Note: A version of this post originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Lawn and Landscape Magazine.