The Palouse Basin Water Summit discussed the dynamic changes in our local water infrastructure and how to conserve it, Tuesday in the SEL Event Center in Pullman. Keynote speaker James Salzman, professor of law and environmental policy at Duke University, discussed the history of drinking water from the initial creation of a cultural water lawn to the clean water crisis of today.
Salzman said few countries have the same relationship with water that the U.S. does. After traveling around the world to research for his newest book, “Drinking Water: A History,” he discovered many differences in the ways various cultures look at water as a social, cultural and economic good.
“The answer for all things water is Rome,” Salzman said.
Salzman said the Romans created the first successful water archetype — they were one of the first cultures to establish water as a free public good granted to citizens through the use of street-side water pools, or small wells. Through developing in-home personal plumbing systems and government taxation on personal water sources, Salzman said Rome was foundational in the modes of water
But not all countries have access to water– especially clean drinking water.
“Well over 1 billion people on the planet — it’s closer to 2 (billion) now — are drinking dirty water,”
Salzman commended the planners and attendees of the Palouse Basin Water Summit. He said the presence of an event like this is rare, and will pave the way to more efficient water use in the future.
Executive Manager of the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee and Assistant Director of the Idaho Water Resources Institute Steve Robischon offered information on the changes in local water use. In PBAC’s study, the University of Idaho was a consistent leader in efficient water use.
PBAC said the cities of Moscow, Pullman, Palouse and Colfax pumped a total of 2.64 billion gallons from the Palouse Basin Aquifer system in 2012. If we were to put that water in gallon milk jugs and set them side by side, Robischon said we would have enough to cover the distance from here to the moon UI pumped 9.5 percent less water in 2012 than in the previous year.
In a comparison from 1992, UI pumped 57.5 percent less water in 2012 to satisfy an even larger population, while the city of Moscow pumped 4.2 percent more water.
“It’s a combination of technology, finding and fixing leaks and everyone using less water,” Robischon said.
Robischon said UI has a unique water management system — while the university pumped the most water at about 48 percent from the aquifer system in 2012, almost half of that water is reclaimed wastewater for use on campus green spaces.
“We’re hoping to someday get that (process of reclaiming waste water) over on the Pullman side, so Pullman’s (consumption) can be really low and still have them be able to use more water,” Robischon said.
Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson said the city is currently working on a 2014 efficient water use plan to lower the per capita consumption from 116 gallons per day to 97 gallons.
“We’re here to celebrate some of the accomplishments we’ve made, we’re here to encourage each other, and we’re here to learn,” Johnson said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re making progress, and I think that’s encouraging for all of us.”
Chloe Rambo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org