What He Said, Say What?


A friend of mine works for the public utilities in my county. He commented on one of my recent blog posts, paraphrasing, “Dude, until folks get over the desire for the perfect green lawn, washed & buffed car, or flushing old meds, our water is gonna suck.”

I said, “Say what?” And of course, I then hunkered down for some research.

Hats off to Neil. And I love learning new terminology. Today’s goal: WATER IS NOT BORING. Give me your eyeballs for 3-minutes and 400-words, I promise you will come away water-smarter.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, our focus on water and air pollution was for the most part non- existent. Global population was low, and the majority of humans lived in accordance and alignment with Nature’s bounty. Not too much taking going on. Ah, the good ol’ days, but for war, rape, pillage, disease, slavery, indigenous annihilation, we enjoyed a good earthly gig with seemingly endless supplies of stuff.

As we continued to explode and modernize our position on the planet, the balance started tilting. This tilt has never really re-balanced…at all. And Mama Nature is giving us the high sign. Enough. We as a species are now at a tipping point. And I guarantee you, if we do not engage change, on the commercial, industrial AND individual levels, Earth wins. And we’re T-Rex toast.

First, learn something new. Second, think change. Third, do it.

Here are a few non-scientific terms to discover. I suggest you go deep on these, but I’ll give it to you in 2 bullet points:

  1. Point-source pollution. Think Exxon Valdez or air quality in Beijing or the Gold King Mine. If you haven’t seen images or video of this type of large-scale DIRECT pollution into our oceans, air and rivers, I suggest moving out from under that rock.
  2. Non-point source pollution. The indirect polluting of our surface water and groundwater occurs in tiny doses, over long periods of time, at the hands of millions. That’s you and me. For example, what’s in your shampoo, or cosmetics case, or lawn fertilizer?

Every time it rains or snows, every time we shower or flush, we are adding to non-point source pollution. Think about that for a minute. Notice the website I hyperlink to is from 2002, yet its message remains both prevalent and under-reported. Collectively, we are choking our waters. It’s a slow death, and we’re doing it to ourselves.

I hope I caught your attention, enough to start 2017 with a review of daily routines. Awareness is the key to change. And we need to make some changes.

‘Nuff said.

Photo Credit: “non-point source pollution in Florida,” taken 7.31.2009                               NOAA National Ocean Service’s photo stream https://www.flickr.com/photos/usoceangov/


Thirsty Women


Today’s post is a shorty. No less impactful than previous, and no, not referring to my days of finding halfies wedged inside a matchbook. On this day, I activate my pen because of anger.

Typically, I wade into the water space with hope and enthusiasm, to open eyes and minds. I am passionate, always and forever, about Earth’s glistening and ever-mysterious oceans. I hope to shift attitudes and help people fall in love rather than ignore Her.

Fresh water challenges, locally and worldwide, need a consistent drumbeat. My call of duty is to raise awareness – safety, distribution, conservation, or access – and point you to information, grow your knowledge.

Ya, today I need to vent, and here’s why: I searched ‘thirsty women’ on Google, believing a few million hits would come up regarding fresh water access for women (and children) in the developing world. Instead, I learned that ‘thirsty women’ is a catchy Internet meme referring to females who “thirst” for men.

Hot damn, that is fucked up. I barely know where to begin. OK, I’m not abreast of the meme culture, but really? First and foremost, the trump-ian depiction of women yearning for the arm & wallet of a man is at greater risk of becoming an accepted norm, again.

Second, and please pay attention:

663,000,000 is the current estimate for humans lacking fresh water access (within a 1-kilometer distance). When is the last time you walked ½ mile to wash or drink?

2.4 billion is the estimated number of people lacking safe sanitation. And of that, one billion openly defecate, meaning outdoors, daylight. Women often must wait for the cloak of darkness to poop (I’d say ‘go the bathroom’, but I can’t, because they don’t have one to go to). Are you with me?

In developing countries, women and girls collectively spend 40-billion hours a year fetching water, often facing danger of physical harm, whether from violence, accident or contaminated water.

And you wonder why I’m angry at the ‘thirsty women’ meme? Exhale. New search: ‘women and water’ to discover facts and information on topics I hold dear. Today, I ask all readers to do the same. Remember, awareness is the key to change. Learn the issues, it may just change your life. And save others’.

Love the Internet; can’t stand the ignorance.

‘Nuff said.

Image credit (thank you!): “The Sea Prisoner” by utenaxchan http://utenaxchan.deviantart.com/art/The-Sea-Prisoner-156391190

People Get Ready: Private Profit and The Greater Good


Can you feel it? Start humming The Impressions 1965 classic, and read on.

“People get ready, there’s a train a comin’”

During my 23-year Wall St career, muni bonds and money markets were known as the staid and steady-eddy divisions of investment banks. We underwrote, sold and traded debt securities to the investor public. This non-exotic system of finance provided cash liquidity to municipalities (and utilities, corporations), which ultimately flushed the toilets and turned on the lights for everyone. Considered a low-risk profit generator, the investment banks nobly served the greater good, with only periodic news flashes of sticky fingers scheming an extra buck.

Sounds almost George Bailey-ian, but my memory is pretty clear. And so is my conscience.

Infrastructure has surged in possibility since 8 November. Suddenly, red and blue politicians are pontificating the need to rebuild the American crumble, the disgusting and feckless 8-year GOP obstruction notwithstanding. NYT journalists Danielle Ivory, Ben Protess and Griff Palmer wrote a great article, “In American Towns, Private Profits From Public Works,” and I highly suggest a thorough reading.

“You don’t need no baggage, just get on board.”

The 20-year estimates for infrastructure spending range from $600 billion to $1 trillion. Those numbers undoubtedly attract the big players of finance, including private equity. Now I believe in the capital markets. I believe in the kinds of investments that support job creation, build things, and deliver results other than the mathematically engineered. We have two sides to an equation that could possibly generate a mutually beneficial outcome.

“All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’”

Problems to this money supply vs. municipal need ratio can and do develop. Most often it’s a very human condition that causes difficulty. Greed vs. Trust. On the one hand are the motivations of the money providers. The insatiable demand for profit is typically hard-wired into the brain of a financier. More is better, so always get more. Our system of law promotes and protects this for-profit behavior. Buyer beware, believe me! On the other hand, municipalities struggle under the weight of faulty planning, insufficient revenue streams, and century-old water mains. And the chances are low that a municipal manager has the financial savvy to understand the finely-tuned language and long-term ramifications of a deal. It’s easier to trust the man or woman in the pinstriped suit, kind of like clicking “Accept” to the terms and conditions of any software upgrade.

“You don’t need no ticket you just thank the Lord.”

Granted, new infrastructure is a positive result. But at what cost, and to whom goes the weighty bulk of these costs? The “C.O.D.B.” often reveals itself years later. Some people (the dealmakers) make a lot of money, and move on to the next deal. And some people (Joe taxpayer) will be foreclosed upon for missing a $500 quarterly payment to the private company managing their water treatment plant.

“The greater good” takes a backseat to short-term profit making in today’s capital markets. It’s the sharks vs. the guppies, the American way. And beginning 20 January 2017, it’s the Trump-ian way. Watch out, losers! #theDTs train is rolling into town.

But I say, DO NOT GIVE UP! The fight is on and awareness is the key. Hope lies in a variety of corners of the financial world. The best example is the premise of the Beneficial Corporation, or “B Corp,” which is a growing platform of companies that adhere to a strictly monitored triple bottom line: generate profit, benefit the environment and create positive social impact. Imagine the possibilities!

‘Nuff Said.

Photo Credit: https://goo.gl/images/ylOKGp

Connecting the Water Dots


LOOK. I hope this image frightens you. Approaching the 8th anniversary of the Kingston Coal Ash spill – the billion gallon environmental catastrophe – how we doing in our awareness, response and prevention efforts?

I’d say, not so good.

Truth be told, these large-scale events catch everyone’s attention for possibly two news cycles, then the masses change channels to MNF or DWTS. Love how EVERYTHING these days is a god damn acronym? My new fave: the #DTs. To some, delerium tremens comes to mind. To me, our president elect, freakishly appropriate!

But, I digress. Back to water ignorance.

Thanks to the many organizations like Waterkeeper Alliance, who are consistently raising awareness and money, and of equal importance, generating site clicks on social networks. Bad water news floats by daily. Here are some highlights, and don’t skip the 11-second effort to click on these links, or the 3+ minutes to learn something:

Possum Point

Gulf of Mexico – NOT the BP Deepwater disaster

The #1 killer of children globally, and it’s preventable

Listen to me, please. It no longer matters whether these events are “not in my backyard.” Allow me to connect the dots. Firstly, water flows and always finds its place, carrying with it whatever is put in. Secondly, as long as your utility is burning coal to turn the lights on, then you are involved. Thirdly, how’s that succulent Gulf shrimp tasting? And lastly, how do we continue to accept that 700+ million people don’t have what we have (limitless hydration access) and 2.4 billion people defecate outdoors?

Prevention of future water bombs is a good goal. But the inevitable truth, just ask Corpus Christi, TX, is that someday soon, you or I will be standing on a long line at the big box store with a cart full of bottled water.

If you know anyone who works at a water treatment plant, give them a hug or a handshake for their service. Then tell them about this great article on the 11 Steps to prepare for chemical spills.

Water awareness and safety used to be deep in the background. Turn on the tap, flush the bowl, keep it movin’. Today, tomorrow, and the next day, this mode of thinking is no longer acceptable. So start paying attention. “Water is boring” is so yesterday.

‘Nuff said.


Photo credit: SkyTruth, “Kingston Coal-Ash Spill, December 23, 2008                         Courtesy of Tennessee Valley Authority https://www.flickr.com/photos/skytruth/             https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/

Shakespeare Had It Right


To desal or not to desal, that is the damn question. It’s man vs. nature, progress vs. preserve, kill or be killed, as human development ceaselessly encroaches upon the earth. Whether refurbishing an old railway along Shakespeare Beach in Dover, UK (photo) or engaging a $1 billion battle for a desalination plant in southern California, we will ultimately have our way.

Not so fast, thirsty one.

Desalination is extremely expensive, both environmentally and financially. Understand that hundreds of millions, and sometimes billions of dollars are required to bring this method of freshwater production online. Since the 1940s, certain desert-centric, oil wealthy nations have satisfied fresh water demands via desalination. Saudi Arabia is a global leader in developing new technology, with solar-powered plants soon going live. And the UAE produces nearly 100% of their drinking water from the ocean. In this part of the world, cash is a rounding error and environmental damage is the cost of survival.

Desalination is happening in the USA as well. Tampa Bay, FL and San Diego, CA have significant desalination operations in use (25 MGD and 50 MGD, respectively). But the environmental cost is gaining a much higher profile. Take Huntington Beach, CA, where years of surfer dudes riding the perfect curl have rolled by, as the large desal player, Poseidon Water, presses its case. Their full-tilt, anchors away endeavor — political contributions, regulatory wrangling, and drought-quenching PR campaigns — are up against a seawall of environmental advocacy intent on protecting all things ocean, whether pristine vistas, seal populations, or the plankton at the bottom of the food chain. But the orca in the room is the California State Water Resources Control Board, who treat their mandate as passionately and bureaucratically as the Poseidon of lore. There’s no flushing a toilet without S.W.R.C.B. consent.

Fascinating to observe, with long-term implications for our fresh water supply, our environment, our very way of life. Pay attention. This is trump-ian stuff.

‘Nuff said.

Photo credit: Dover Marina – Shakespeare Beach Rail-works files

#EPA and #NOAA What Do They Know?


“I alone can fix it.” Judging by the DTs lineup of male, Caucasian, billionaire, mad dogs, we are in for a hellish ride. A blaring signal to all who care about climate and clean water: this is no longer a concern of your government.

Big Oil wins.

We have a nominee to head the EPA who chooses to seed doubt rather than accept unanimous, ongoing, decades-old and empirically supported evidence that our planet is warming. #PollutingPruitt is a primary litigator against President Obama’s clean water and environmental initiatives. I used to hold out hope that a carbon market could actually become a reality. Sadly, if the OK AG brings his legacy forward into the EPA, it looks like a price on carbon goes the way of Barack’s clean water goals.

We have a nominee to become our chief diplomat who currently runs Exxon Mobil, the largest hydrocarbon extractor known to our civilization. Not sure how the need to reduce carbon emissions, and the massive opportunity for developing renewable energy sources, fits into a pro-fossil fuels agenda. Plus, there’s this little $500 billion “deal” that awaits Exxon, as soon as those annoying sanctions are lifted on our new Russia bestie.

Heat-causing carbon is trapped in our atmosphere, and globally, warmer average temperature is our new normal. Climate science has informed us for years that large weather events will increase in both occurrence and intensity. And the military clearly states that a primary risk to our national safety is climate change, as they plan for responding to future climate-related impacts.

So sit back and enjoy it while you can. Whether lounging on an ice structure in the Canadian Basin, or digging your toes in the sand along the eastern shoreline, realize that Big Oil will make CEOs and shareholders richer, and the rest of us can go suck it. T-god we’re making America great again.

‘Nuff said.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Potter, NOAA. “arct0124” taken 07.24.2005 https://www.flickr.com/photos/noaaphotolib/

A Touch of Aluminum Sulphate, A Hint of Benzene: Tap Water C.O.D.B.


The nose knows. Every time you sip a glass of tap, unfiltered, the smell (and taste) of chlorine might wrinkle your nostrils, or outright denude your hydration pleasure. It’s all good, though, or at least a snide better than a whiff of what the chlorine kills.

Yeah, if America knew as much about the contents of its municipal water supply as it does the surviving candidates of “The Apprentice,” or some other dumbass reality show, we could actually begin a dialogue on improving water infrastructure and safety controls.

But, as a water rights advocate-friend of mine said, “water is boring.” Until it’s not. Just ask the lovely folks in Toronto over the past few days, or the people of Flint over the past year+, or the gritty residents of Gendive, MT who dealt with a 50,000-gallon oil spill into the Yellowstone River within a 3-wood of the municipality’s intake valves.

It’s the curl of the constituents’ nose-hairs that finally gets some action.

Agricultural run-off, fracking wastewater disposal, and burst oil pipelines are now a daily occurrence in North American waters. And the incredible reality is how few people know about it. If it’s not happening in their backyard, it ain’t a problem.

Guess what, my friendly readers? The problem is everywhere. The EPA sets water quality guidelines for municipalities to follow. Chunky acronyms ( NPDWRs, CCLs, UCMs) that you’ve most likely never heard of represent measurements with significant meaning to your health.

Meanwhile,  EPA and DEP monitoring manpower is severely under-staffed, AND they can only test for “known” contaminants. That UCM measurement is all about the “unknown” or unregulated contaminants flowing into the water supply.

I’ve been saying for a decade-plus. Filters on your taps, including shower head filters, is the best defense. And over the next 4-years, I believe taking certain health decisions into your own hands is even more critical. Sadly, when it comes to water safety, it’s the Cost ODoing Business, because your EPA will not have your back. Plus, it’s so damn boring.

‘Nuff said.

Photo Credits:

Evil Erin, “He nose if you’ve been bad or good,” December 12, 2008 https://www.flickr.com/photos/evilerin/

USDA NRCSTN83003-a, “Water Flows Off a Tennessee Farm After a Storm, April 25, 2013 https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/