January 2013: Perspectives on Water

Global Warming 

2012 was the hottest year on record in the USA, further establishing the increasing effect of climate change on the planet. With global warming comes an increase of extreme weather events, such as what Australia has been experiencing – flooding fast on the heels of an unprecedented heat wave and bush fires.

The Whole HOG’s much referenced science guy, Robert Krulwich turned us on to what he calls “Miss Piggy’s version of global warming” wherein scientists (at the New Scientist website) published an interactive graph that answers the question, ‘What about me?’ Use the New Scientist App to click on a map of the world, anywhere in the world, and see how the temperature has changed in that location since 1950. A chilling – or should I say fever-inducing – illustration of climate change close to home.

As we enter 2013, we’re thinking about water (in light of global warming) from three different perspectives: personal, national (apologies to our international readers for our American-centric leanings), and global.

We’re taking the Miss Piggy approach direct to your roof with the rooftop rain harvest calculator. This app from Save the Rain lets you find and highlight any roof in the world visible from Google maps (preferably your roof) to figure out how much rainwater it could be collecting annually. A farm in Southwest Colorado, one close to this writer’s heart (it belongs to my mom), where the average annual rainfall is 11.81 inches could be collecting approximately 10,643 gallons a year. That’s 4,447 toilet flushes. How much could you collect?

(*Head’s up, this info is calculated in the metric system. Google provides an easy conversion method, For example, simply type in “300 mm = ?? inches” as your search term. 11.81 inches will come up as the answer.)

In the USA a water main breaks every 2 minutes, resulting in 1.7 billion gallons of water lost every year.  Accessible graphics, colorful stats, and up-to-date data distinguishes the 2012 Value of Water Index from recent reports. The study, put on by Xylem, presents findings from ‘a nationwide poll of American voters detailing what they think should be done about the country’s water crisis and who should pay for it.’

value of water index

©Xylem Value of Water Index

In 2010, 80% of Americans believed our water system needed reform. In 2012, that percentage has grown to 88%. Seventy-nine percent of the American public recognize that demand is growing and water is becoming scarce. But, the factors contributing to a water crisis remain hazy for many. Click on the graph, pictured left, for more.


Sierra Leone

A public latrine in Freetown’s Grey Bush slum where cholera struck. Public bathrooms are generally in poor order and costly to use. ©Mustafah Abdulaziz



Unsafe water sources and poor sanitation make the water crisis in developing countries more visceral. Often there is inadequate infrastructure to serve large urban populations, as in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone where a population of 2 million people live in a city with an infrastructure built for half that many.  Photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz focuses on the role of water as a carrier of epidemic and disease in a thought-provoking project, funded by the Pulitzer Center, called “Water is Gold”. In it, he documents the aftermath of the worst outbreak of cholera in Sierra Leone’s history.

The Whole HOG: September 2012

Water-centric Green Design News

“Water is fundamental to our economic vitality and overall quality of life, not to mention our very survival. And, at about a penny a gallon (far less than the cost a gallon of milk – or bottled water), this precious resource is also an exceptional value; especially considering how often we use it every day.”
– Randy A. Moore, President of Iowa American Water

This September, when it comes to water, we’re taking problem-solving seriously. Doctor HOG helps brainstorm solutions for Frank Katz’s two-HOG installation in New Mexico, and we get real-world perspectives on America’s water crisis from a clean energy economy advocate in California and from the president of Iowa’s largest investor-owned water utility.

We also feature an award-winning, student-designed hybrid. Read more about the water-saving Washit in our B.U.G. Design section. And speaking of student-powered solutions, registration is now open for the EPA sponsored Campus Rainworks Challenge!

September 2012: The Case for Fixing America’s Water Infrastructure

The breakdown of water infrastructure in the U.S. is making headlines. Recently, we’ve come across articles with messages that resonate with reports on America’s water crisis posted in our March and April editions.

Want Jobs? Fix America’s Water Crisis

“The most urgent deficit America needs to resolve right now is our job deficit. And fixing our infrastructure — especially the systems that keep our water safe and clean — is one of the best ways we can put people to work,” writes Jeremy Hayes in his recent Huffington Post article, “Want Jobs? Fix America’s Water Crisis.”

Hayes works as the Chief Strategist for State and Local Initiatives at Green For All, a U.S.-based organization “working to build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.”

He makes a compelling case for the common sense logic behind fixing the U.S.’s crumbling water infrastructure as a way to boost the economy and create jobs. He goes further to argue that when cities embrace green water infrastructure they can reduce stormwater runoff and pollutants, protect groundwater, improve air quality, and even increase property value.

Water Companies Need to Increase Infrastructure Investment

Meanwhile in Iowa,  the president of the state’s largest investor-owned water utility is making a case for the continued need to maintain and improve a system of aging pipes in his op-ed,  “Water Companies Need to Increase Infrastructure Investment.”

Randy A. Moore, president of Iowa American Water, writes, “The time has come for us as a nation — community by community — to commit to adopting strategies to renew our water infrastructure.”

The approximately $10 million a year that Iowa American Water invests in their water systems helps ensure the continued stability of other infrastructure, such as transportation, roads, homes and businesses.

Echoes Down the Pipe Line

Moore echoes some of the warning from the report on America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge featured in our April 2012 edition. He emphasizes the fact that postponing investment in updating an aging water infrastructure system ultimately increases the expense of repairs.

On a brighter note, Moore also represents, in real-time, some of the solutions suggested by the Financing Sustainable Water Infrastructure highlighted in the March 2012 Whole HOG.  An investor-owned water utility like Iowa American Water relies on private, market-based financing mechanisms that can better support local, customer-supported water solutions.

These local water solutions can improve efficiencies, including green infrastructure, closed-loop systems and water recycling, and, as Hayes suggests, create jobs.

The Whole HOG: April 2012

Water-centric Green Design News

Our April edition is focused on cleantech – inspired by our adventures at Eco City in San Francisco. For show and tell, we’re featuring our neighboring exhibitors, a company called BISEM Inc, producing building-integrated photovoltaic (BiPV) curtain walls. Find out more in the B.U.G. Design section.

As a follow-up to last month’s feature on financing sustainable water infrastructure in the U.S., we have a report from the American Water Works Association that offers a clear warning about the state of our nation’s pipes, and the associated costs.

The architecturally designed, modular Rainwater HOG tanks offers a cleantech take on rainwater harvesting. Capturing rainwater reduces reliance on aging infrastructure and offers a piece of the solution for alleviating pressure on the national water system and the environment.

Finally, don’t miss Sally’s heart-pounding article on her 8-day race through the deserts of Morocco!

April 2012: Buried No Longer – America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge

Buried No Longer: Report on America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge

American Water Works Association (AWWA) has issued a report, Buried No Longer: America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge, intended to bring the conversation about water infrastructure- the network of aging pipes through which U.S. household water is distributed – above ground.

Read the report: Buried No Longer: America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge.
After compiling a comprehensive picture of the nation’s water pipe inventory, AWWA has created an in-depth analysis of the nation’s water infrastructure renewal needs. And they’ve assigned a $1 trillion dollar plus price tag to it for the next 25 years.

Here’s a summary of what they’ve found:

1. The Needs Are Large.

2. Household Water Bills Will Go Up.

3. There Are Important Regional Differences.

4. There Are Important Differences Based on System Size.

5. The Costs Keep Coming.

6. Postponing Investment Only Makes the Problem Worse.

While the AWWA’s report offers data-filled analysis showing the extent of maintenance and repair necessary to maintain the U.S. water system, they stop short of offering solutions for financing these infrastructure investments.

So, how might one pay for a national investment of such scale?

We suggest a revisit to the report on financing sustainable water solutions, which offers a glass half-full perspective with tangible ideas on dealing with the cost of a leaky water system that loses six billion gallons of water each day. Find a summary in our March edition.

Read the report: Financing Sustainable Water Infrastructure.

The Whole HOG: March 2012

Water-centric Green Design News

Trending (by the numbers) for 2012

The fourth-largest advertising agency on the planet, J. Walter Thompson (JWT) recently released their alphabetized list of 100 things to watch in 2012. Rainwater harvesting comes in at #58, and rooftop farming at #61. Solar gets simpler (#73), and spiking food prices (#74) are also pieces of the trending global puzzle.

Rainwater HOG is on the road to addressing global concerns of 2012, at the intersection of rainwater harvesting and rooftop farming.  QuickDominguez Architects (a new venture for designer and architect Sally Dominguez) is on the scene in Australia with a twelve-HOG, multi-green roof sustainable renovation of a Bondi Beach residence.

Ecobuild, the world’s largest sustainable building conference, is being held in London this month. Find us there, alongside other innovators working to improve building materials and techniques, and to promote sustainable practice like garden-growing, solar energy, and rainwater harvesting (that’s #58, #61, and #73 on the list).

Inside the Financing Sustainable Water Infrastructure report is a call to action. The report is a compelling look at the reality of expanding water scarcity (hello #74 – spiking food prices) and an urgent need to update the United States’ aging water infrastructure.

And finally, veer off-road and into the sand in our B.U.G. Design section, as we get ready to follow Sally on a nine-day road rally through Morocco! She and fellow Australian Samantha Stevens are team 168 in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles.

March 2012: Financing Sustainable Water Infrastructure Report

Financing Sustainable Water Infrastructure Report

The nation’s water infrastructure is at a critical juncture, according to the recently released Financing Sustainable Water Infrastructure report. Before you skip right on past that dry, curiosity-quencher of a title, be assured, the information inside is as compelling as the title is off-putting.

We lose over six billion gallons of expensive, treated water each day because of leaky, aging pipes. This represents 14 percent of the nation’s daily water use. This endemic water waste is underscored by the fact the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the nation’s water systems a D-, the lowest grade of any infrastructure including roads and bridges.

In order to achieve more sustainable, resilient and cost-effective freshwater systems, the report recommends bold new approaches for financing and operating public water systems, including:

• Local water solutions that can improve efficiencies, including green infrastructure, closed-loop systems and water recycling;

• Flexible water pricing and revenue structures that distinguish between drinking water and various other types of water, such as lawn water and toilet water;

• System-wide, full-cost accounting of water services and financing mechanisms; and

• Less reliance on state and federal funding and more reliance on private, market-based financing mechanisms that can support local, customer-supported solutions.

For an easy-to-understand overview of the report, check out David Mark’s press release at the American Rivers site.

How does the report relate to HOG and to you?
HOG tanks provide a modular rainwater storage system with future flexibility in mind.

The report recommends using water, in its different stages of treatment, for appropriate purposes. Save potable water for drinking. And collect water from the source! Harvested rainwater, stored in a HOG tank, can be used to water the garden, the lawn, and to flush the toilet.

An added bonus: reduced dependence on an energy-inefficient, centralized water system.

Recommended Reading: Cadillac Desert

A dose of narrative makes the facts go down smoothly. Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert offers the (riveting!) story you won’t find in the report. His 1986 book exposed the cutthroat politics and environmental implications of water consumption in the arid west.

25 years later, a group of scientists revisited Reisner’s predictions of water scarcity in the southwest, and confirmed the legitimacy and foresight of his research. Read about it in On Earth Magazine.