“The Hidden Costs of Tiger Water
John Thackara. June 27, 2012
This jequitiba tree in Brazil moves hundreds of gallons of water up into its canopy every day. It does so without pumps, without electricity, and without recourse to the concrete reservoirs and sewage treatment plants on which most modern cities depend.
The jequitiba is a joyous marvel to behold, of course – but it would also be an practical inspiration to the world’s designers and city builders, faced with imminent energy descent, if only we were minded to notice.”
But we’re not. As with energy, although threats to the security of water supply command a lot of attention, we’ve lost touch with the realities of where it comes from, and how we use it. By the year 2050, as a consequence of this hydro-myopia, as many as two-thirds of the world population will be living in areas subject to water stress.
Here is a thought experiment to demonstrate how alienated we’ve become from water. Imagine emptying 500 litre bottles of water into a huge pot and carrying it 50 miles – every day of the year. That’s the weight and distance of water moved for a US citizen every day once her share of the country’s agriculture, manufacturing, car washes, window cleaning, laundries, ornamental ponds, health clubs, swimming pools and golf courses, are added together. Your white tea shirt? That took 700 gallons of fresh water to make. That pizza? The water footprint of a 25oz (725 gram) pizza margherita is 320 US gallons (1216 litres).
Does moving all that water around sound like hard work? It is hard work. Never mind 500 bottles, try carrying even five for a few miles; you’ll soon appreciate how it can be true that twenty percent of a city’s energy footprint involves moving and treating water.
In New York or London, we don’t think about the energy footprint of water because we don’t have to carry it – and in any case, its flows are invisible.
They also invisible at the new Tiger Woods Golf Course in the desert city of Dubai – even though four million gallons are pumped on to its immaculate grounds every day.
This vast quantity of water is needed not just to keep its swathes green, but also to dampen the one billion cubic feet of sand (25m cubic metres) that have been sculpted to create the contours of a links-style course. (If they weren’t dampened, these high-end sand dunes would soon dry out and be blown away). The water for Tiger’s golfing oasis is pumped from vast desalination plants around the Gulf many miles away; there, energy-guzzling plants suck vast volumes of water out of the sea and strip out the salt. Forty four per cent of the cost of desalination are the energy component – and that’s before it’s pumped to the point of use.
It’s small wonder that Tiger water is the most expensive on earth – but what the heck, his clients can afford it. Whether the planet can afford it is another matter.”
Via: Design Observer