Q&A with Peter Gleick: how to be more water efficient (part 2)

Peter Gleick.jpegEarlier today at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, I caught up with Peter Gleick, co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute, to find out how we can make sure the world doesn't run out of water. (I first wrote about Gleick and the water problem yesterday.)

How are we going to sustain our water supply if the population of the world continues to grow?

I'm a big believer that we have to deal with population, and we don't talk about it enough. But I also believe that, no matter what the population is, we have a responsibility to meet basic human needs for water. We have to look through a much broader lens than saying this is only a population problem.

What can we do to save water? One of the panelists mentioned that eating bananas in the winter is bad for the world water supply, for example.

All sorts of things that we do have water implications that we often don't understand. It takes a lot of water to grow food. That water often comes from regions that don't have much water, like the Middle East. They grow a lot of bananas in Jordan, one of the water poorest countries in the world. Should Jordan be spending its limited water supply to grow bananas for rich people to eat in the winter? I'm not going to answer that, but there are water implications in everything we do.

Here's another connection people don't make. It takes a lot of energy to provide the water goods and services we demand. It takes a lot of energy to move water, to collect and treat water, and to use water. One of the things we realized in the last couple of years is that some of the smartest ways to save energy and reduce climate change may be to save water — to rethink the way we use water in our homes, industry, and agriculture.