Water Woes

Planning that annual trip to Lake Powell soon? How about just a quick trip from Salt Lake up to Echo Reservoir? These Utah bodies of water and many others are in crisis due to the extreme drought conditions, down to just 25-35% of capacity. Powell had to recently steal from Flaming Gorge just to keep enough water to spin the turbines that create enough electricity for places like Las Vegas. The forecast for water here is grim, and it’s not looking good for skiers thanks to global warming.

We can all help save water, and it starts simply with being aware of our water use. Here’s examples: shower: 5 gallons/minute; bath: 36 gallons/per use; brushing teeth (with water running): 1 gallon/minute; washing hands or face: 1 gallon/minute; dishwasher: 10 gallons/load; hand washing dishes: 2 gallons/minute; laundry: 40 gallons/load for older models, 27 gallons for newer models; flushing toilet: 3 gallons/flush; watering the lawn: 10 gallons/minute.  Make yourself a list of what you do based on the uses stated above and see how much water you’re using every 24 hours.

On top of evaluating your usage, check your faucets. The U.S. Geological Survey has a handy Drip Calculator that will show you how much water a leaky faucet wastes over time. Locally we’re being asked to just water lawns twice a week. In Las Vegas, grass lawns have been outlawed. Planting drought-tolerant plants or putting in a good quality of fake grass will drastically cut water use at your home.

Until recently it was illegal to harvest rain water in Utah. As of 2010, all Utahns are allowed to collect 2,500 gallons of rainwater on their property in covered above ground containers or in underground cisterns. Most water in the state is owned by the state of Utah. If you want to collect it in more than two containers under 100 each or in one container over 100 gallons, you must register with the Utah Division of Water Rights (free, and simple on-line form). You can then use that captured rain to irrigate your lawn or garden, supplement your drip irrigation system, water inside plants, wash your car or bike, wash your windows, wash out recyclable bottles and cans before putting them in your recycling bin, and use it to rinse off your artificial grass after your animals use it for a potty station.

Sadly, we don’t have state laws that ban car washes from using drinking water, but many chains do recycle some of the water after each wash. However, we do have a site to report water abusers: www.water.utah.gov/fameorshame. You can use the site to answer a Survey Monkey to snitch (shame) on water wasters, and you don’t have to leave your name. They won’t publicly shame abusers but will seek them out to help mediate the waste.  For those who are trying not to waste our water you can use the same site to report water savers (fame).

www.scienceovereverthing.com  for water use amounts

Climate Gentrification

We hear this term ‘gentrification’ a lot these days when it comes to neighborhoods. Basically, by definition, it’s when a poor neighborhood is changed by wealthier buyers and renters moving in, which then generally pushes out the less financially abundant folk living there.  I became aware of this in Salt Lake City many decades ago when John Williams, one of the owners of Gastronomy/Market Street Grill/The New Yorker purchased a home in the Capitol Hill area. At that point in time many people were astounded that he didn’t buy a home in the Harvard/Yale, Federal Heights, or Holladay neighborhoods where expensive homes are traditionally found. Williams had lived downtown and buying on the Hill was a natural for him because the new home was close to his office, but people still scratched their head as to why he’d live in an area that hadn’t been known as an ‘exclusive neighborhood’.  Thanks to Williams homesteading in a less expensive neighborhood, buyer’s eyes turned to the wonderfully historic homes around the state capitol building and soon a younger and more affluent group of buyers called the Marmalade and Capitol Hill neighborhoods home. Over the years this has happened to such neighborhoods in the Salt Lake Valley as lower Sugar House, Taylorsville, areas around Cottonwood Heights (i.e., White City), and Rose Park. It’s now visible in the lower 9th and 9th neighborhood, Poplar Grove and Glendale as the ‘up and coming’ places to live.

A whole new type of gentrification is beginning to happen along the East Coast shoreline communities, now dubbed ‘climate gentrification’ CNN news stated last month that it’s a “process in which wealthier people fleeing from climate-risky areas spur higher housing prices and more aggressive gentrification in safer areas.”  The black working-class neighborhoods on high ground in New Orleans have seen new neighbors coming in and grabbing up cheaper homes above the flood plain and pushing up housing prices. Did you happen to see the horrific news of the condo building collapsing in the Miami area last month that killed almost 100 people living in building the middle of the night? There’s a new mentality to flee from the danger of hurricane winds, storm surges and water damage and move inland to higher ground.

“Climate-risky cities around the country are also seeing signs of gentrification…where booming real estate prices in higher-ground, minority neighborhoods – like Little Haiti – have been tied to sea level rise,” reported CNN. It’s a fact that as the climate changes sea levels will rise. New York City is only 33’ above sea level, Miami is 6.5’ and San Francisco is 52’ near the bay.  The areas of the U.S. that see the most coastal flooding include Tampa, Charleston, Long Island and New Jersey.

Given the massive monsoon rains in Southern Utah this year, homeowners may want to re-assess if they should live on higher ground in the future if these storms are going to become the norm. The theory of climate gentrification would then logically point to affordable housing appearing in flood-prone neighborhoods. And flood insurance is extremely expensive!