LIVE from OG11: Shifting Tides – The Future Water in the Face of Unpredictable Supply, Population Growth, and Climate Change

Posted on 11. Nov, 2011 by in Business & Policy, Events

This afternoon at OG 11, moderator David Nahai, President of David Nahai & Associates, led an august panel on a full spectrum discussion of the social, political, economic, environmental, ecological, and technological elements of future water usage in southern California. Sharing the stage was former Governor of California Gray Davis; University of California Presidential Chair & Director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment Glen MacDonald; Vice President of Innovations for the Americas at Veolia Environnement, Dr. William Wescott; and Banyan Water CEO Tamin Pechet.

David Nahai

Nahai described the reality quite well by saying “southern California is living on borrowed time,” considering it is home to an ever-growing population in an arid region heavily reliant on distant water sources. In fact, according to California’s former Governor, Gray Davis, 89 % of Los Angeles’ water comes from the Colorado River and the eastern Sierras.

“Water is the lifeblood of humanity and it is something not well understood, particularly in southern California,” said Davis. He encourages businesses to look seriously at water and take measures to become more efficient and ascetic in their own commercial use. Davis praised, as an example of positive action, moves by Levi Strauss & Co. to significantly reduce water use in the finishing process of manufacture of their clothing with a departure from pre-washing. Individuals, in turn, need to “understand there is not an endless supply of water,” says Davis. He encourages the public to support measures to recycle potable water that will be “deposited back into groundwater for 4 or 5 years” for additional, natural filtration. He reminded the audience that “individual voters and consumers can have a powerful influence.”

MacDonald highlighted the nexus that institutions of higher education form for business and government in addition to conducting fundamental research. Universities have broad capability in engineering, public policy, and economics and, as such, can bring parties together, even antagonistic groups, to work toward water solutions.

David Nahai, Gray Davis, Glen MacDonald, Bill Wescott, and Tamin Pechet

Dr. Wescott concurred on the beneficial intersection of entrepreneurs, academics, and financiers. “We’re the largest water services provider in the world. Our role is not to create the policy or model. Our role is to be the enablers and to facilitate; most importantly, to implement. We are a natural platform to interface with universities. If we mitigate risk, money will come. People are anxious to deploy capital when they’re confident there won’t be mistakes.”

To that point, the panelist agreed that those risks are minimized when universities and well-respected non-profits have validated policies and models. If the public understands the need for and benefit of water recycling, for example, ”we’ll bring down the cost of water and deal with a huge problem in the west,” in the words of Davis.

It seemed clear from the panel that recycling is really the preferred, if not only, remedy to California’s water woes. Jay Hodgkins, Managing Editor of Communications with NRG Energy posed the first question from the audience about the feasibility and desirability of desalination operations. “Desalination is in opposition to recycling and is a disincentive [to conservation and recycling],” replied Davis. Nahai added, “we’re better off intercepting water before it gets back to the ocean,” in consideration of energy requirements and efficiency.

Undoubtedly, Californians and people the world over need to appreciate water as a finite resource. On that note, the audience was treated to a preview of the upcoming documentary Last Call at the Oasis at the conclusion of discussion. I can’t wait to see it.


Photo Source: Michael Chapdelaine


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One Response to “LIVE from OG11: Shifting Tides – The Future Water in the Face of Unpredictable Supply, Population Growth, and Climate Change”

  1. windesal

    13. Nov, 2011

    sounds like this State is ready for our offer.

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