Integrity of Creation Conference: The Global Water Crisis.

Sep. 27-28, 2017


Nancy G. Love, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE

Presentation: Wednesday September 27, 7:00pm.

Borchardt and Glysson Collegiate Professor
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan

Presentation title: "Water Infrastructure in Shrinking and Expanding Cities: The Impact on Water Quality and Public Health"

Across the world, in both developed and developing countries, rapid shifts are occurring where people reside. Today, approximately 15% of the U.S. population, or 48 million people, live in what are called "shrinking cities" while the majority of the world's population growth is occurring in the expanding cities of low and middle income countries. In both these cases, the population shift has a direct impact on the performance of urban water infrastructure in ways that may impose risks upon public health. Declining populations in shrinking U.S. cities often lead to underinvestment in the city due to a declining tax base. In turn, water infrastructure is vulnerable to escalating challenges (such as chemical and microbiological risks in water) in these cities for multiple reasons. For example, water distribution systems in shrinking cities that were designed and constructed decades earlier become oversized for the populations they serve and, as a result, the drinking water they convey is vulnerable to microbial contamination from infiltration driven by inadequate pipe pressure and long water age. Corrosion and aging of pipe materials often require more disinfectant to maintain an adequate disinfection residual at all locations. If the utility overcompensates with disinfectant to maintain adequate disinfectant residual, excessive amounts of harmful disinfection byproducts can be formed. In contrast, expanding cities in low and middle income countries often have underdeveloped and underinvested water infrastructure. Transitioning entirely to centralized water services, which have laid the way for enhanced livelihoods and public health in the cities of highly developed countries, is not always practical or sustainable for cities with low and medium income economies. Household-scale solutions for water access and treatment are often not well maintained or adequately functional. Therefore, water infrastructure challenges in both shrinking and expanding cities can both lead to problematic drinking water quality, in part due to reduced microbial stability in distributed drinking water and enhanced microbial regrowth of opportunistic pathogens that pose a risk for selected sectors of the population (young, old and immunocompromised). In both cases, residents often migrate toward point-of-use PoU water management strategies, which may solve some public health challenges and introduce others. In this talk, I will lay out the case for water infrastructure trends in both shrinking and expanding cities, and review case studies pertinent to drinking water quality issues that have cropped up as a result of population changes in each.

Robert Glennon

Presentation: Thursday September 28, 8:15am.

Regents' Professor and Morris K. Udall Professor of Law and Public Policy, Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona.

Presentation Title: "Moral Stewardship of Our Most Precious Resource: Water"

America's self-inflicted water crisis is coming. Throughout the United States, even in places that are not particularly dry or hot, communities, farmers, and factories are struggling to find water, and even running out altogether. Our water woes will get worse before they get better because we are slow to change our ways, and because water is the overlooked resource. From the Vegas Strip to faux snow in Atlanta, from mega-farms to Washington's love affair with biofuels, heady extravagances and everyday waste are sucking the nation dry. This presentation will illustrate the urgency of this problem and the need for action on multiple fronts to solve it. We cannot engineer our way out of the problem with the usual fixes or zany schemes. America must make hard choices, and the answer in this presentation is a provocative market-based system that values water as a commodity and a fundamental human right.

Hussein A. Amery, Ph.D.

Presentation: Thursday September 28, 10:00am.

Director, Division of Humanities, Arts and Social Science
Colorado School of Mines, 1005 - 14 St. Golden, Co. 80401, USA

Presentation title: "The Water, Food, and Energy Nexus in the Middle East: A Focus on Saudi Arabia"

This provides an overview of food security in the Middle East, and offers a critical analysis of Saudi Arabia's recent policy to abandon wheat production inside the country. Its approach is based on the fact that water, food and energy are intimately linked because each affects the other, and is in turn affected by it. This nexus argues for an approach that recognizes the dynamic interrelationship between water, food and energy, and compels decision makers to consider how a plan in one sector could affect various stakeholders in that sector as well as in others. In considering the water-energy nexus, common policy objectives at the national level are: Ensuring the provision, conservation, and efficiency of freshwater; Protecting water quality by mitigating human-induced damage of the ecosystem; Increasing energy security by providing and conserving energy supplies, as well as by increasing energy efficiency; Mitigating climate change by cutting or averting emission of anthropogenic greenhouse gases or sequestering carbon. A nexus approach is about better cross-sectoral policy integration and efficiency throughout the system as opposed to gains in an isolated sector. This is would be an important step towards sustainability. Natural infrastructure is a critical component in the water-food energy nexus.

Bishop Mário Clemente Neto, CSSp.

Presentation: Thursday September 28, 12:00pm.

Spiritan Bishop, Amazon Forest. 

Presentation title: "Living the Preservation of Nature in the Amazon"

The Amazon - we live on the waters. The rivers and lakes are our roads. They also overflow, fertilize the land and supply us with fish, our basic diet. This wealth must be preserved. What about when businesses invade, take away the fish or use them wastefully and the diet of the long-suffering riverside people becomes scarce? Inspired by the bible, they become aware of their rights and they organize themselves to resist and fight to preserve the lakes, rivers and the other aspects of their natural habitat. The rubber tappers of the other Amazonian regions, inspired by the example of Chico Mendes, struggle for a sustainable exploration of the forest. The world awakes to ecology; governments make laws; they decree the existence of environmental reserves. However, are these laws that come from above workable? Do they take account of the people who live there? Upon whom should the burden of preservation fall? Only on the third world countries, that often preserve most?

Rachel Hart Winter

Presentation: Thursday September 28, 1:45pm.

Director, Siena Center, Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois.

Presentation title: "Our Parched Earth: A Catholic Ecofeminist Response to the Global Water Crisis"

Relying on sources from both the Catholic social justice tradition and ecofeminism, this presentation will explore the effects of the global water crisis on women. Taking seriously human rights and the responsibility to protect all of God's creation offer new solutions to the water crisis based on a Catholic, ecofeminist perspective on justice. In order to advocate for water justice for all, it is essential to address the problems stemming from a commodified view of water and to move toward the celebration of water as a sacred gift for all creatures on the Earth.

Richard V. Piacentini, Ph.D.

Presentation: Thursday September 28, 3:30pm.

Executive Director, Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh

Presentation title: "Exploring Sustainable Water Conservation Strategies in a Living Building"

Federal, state and local governments in the United States spent more than $2.2 trillion in the last 59 years on water and wastewater utilities. Inefficient water use is rampant: U.S. buildings account for 13.6% of potable water use, while in many places non-potable water should be acceptable, and runoff from impervious surfaces continues to overwhelm sewage treatment plants. We need to be smarter about the way we use and treat water. This is important for economic and social justice reasons as well as for basic respect of the planet and all other life forms.

The Living Building Challenge is the most rigorous green building standard in the world. A key imperative of the standard requires buildings to be net-zero water. As one of 12 Living Building Challenge certified buildings in the world, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) strives to serve as a model for innovative water conservation strategies in the built environment. A research, education and office space constructed on a former brownfield, the CSL operates as a net-zero energy facility, and continues to engage participants in how to reduce energy and water usage, as well as collect data to monitor and improve its performance. Non-potable water needs are supplied by captured rainwater from a green roof and surrounding landscapes, while drinking water is drawn from municipal sources. All storm and sanitary water is treated, stored and is either infiltrated or reused on site via constructed wetlands, sand, and UV filters for toilet flushing. Over the last three years, the green roof has reduced runoff on average of 88.9%, and the building uses 93% less potable water than a typical office building. This presentation will discuss Phipps green infrastructure and results and the ways in which these technologies can inform water conservation policies. Water is a precious resource. Each of us can provide a solution and not be a part of the problem.