24 October 2007
As an army brat, I grew up playing with my Skeletor castle and bike on lawns and in the streets of neighborhoods in Texas, California, Colorado, and Georgia, to name a few states.
Unequivocally, our Georgian neighbors won the cake prize for most obsessed with lawn watering and maintenance. Maybe it was the Augusta (Masters golf tourney) factor, maybe it was unemployment rate, maybe it was territorial lust embedded in most southerners that want the South to defend her shores and lawns against Yankee intrusion.
Well, the Yankees have arrived in Chevy Sububus in droves and carpetbagged the southern urban form. The vast majority of U.S. population emigration is from the rust belt to the South and Sun Belt. Suburban cookie cutter developers are only too happy to accommodate the new neighbors with gigantic isolating lots, homes, and lawns. The homes consume a much larger amount of, well, everything: land, Scott's fertilizer, water, electrons for space conditioning. We are fatter, and so are our hovels.
Population expansion plus new residents = significant more demand stress on aging infrastructure. In my Alt. Energy Resources class yesterday, our professor was none too surprised with Atlanta. If you place 30% new demand over the last generation on relatively static supply, rapidly declining reservoirs are not out of place.
When a giant American city is now 87 days outside of straight up running out of water, it is probably time to rethink the culture of lawn, and start thinking more sustainably about parks, higher efficiency passive space conditioning homes, and greater connectivity and pedestrian friendly communities. Small is beautiful, people.
This won't be the last time a massive urban, suburban, exurban megalopolis tells all of its residents to suddenly cut its water use in half, after spending all summer business as usual. What happens in Las Vegas probably won't matter in 50 years if there is no more fucking water in Lake Powell in the Rockies. For that matter, everyone will move back to the coasts when the over stressed groundwater in the Ogallala Aquifer runs dry.
PS> Tight Nod Amory and Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalists. Check them out at www.rmi.org.