Sunday, February 24, 2013

Water torture?

photo of icicle dripping
© harrington
The row of stalactite-like icicles hanging from the roof edge and soffit had an end of Winter growth spurt yesterday. The thaw-freeze cycle fails to drain the gutters quickly enough so they and the downspouts fill with ice and overflow, growing more icicles. The gradual emergence of Spring in My Minnesota has some downsides. On the other hand, if it suddenly turned to 60 degree days and 40 degree nights and stayed there, our neighbors in the Red River valley would have flooding problems from the rapid runoff. We'd have problems with a diminished groundwater supply. Much of the appeal of green building in a state like Minnesota has been related to energy savings. The ability of green neighborhoods and buildings to conserve water both indoors and out needs to get more attention. These issues, and an increase in healthy living environments eventually leading to reduced health insurance costs, should be getting the kind of subsidies that fossil fuel and other extractive industries receive. Today's Star-Tribune has another feature on Minnesota's growing water shortage. That's in contrast to the EQB's Environment and Energy Report card that treats water shortages as an emerging issue rather than one that's here, now. That report also wags a finger at "increased development" as a culprit without including any reference to the quality of development. Green buildings use less water than  buildings built only to meet code requirements. Stop and think about it (or at least slow down and think about it), reduced water consumption means that local governments can accommodate more employment and residents without having to increase investment in water supply and treatment infrastructure, without having to expand wastewater treatment facilities. Moving to managing surface flows for stormwater, sending it into rain gardens and other green infrastructure, reduces the investment required in stormwater pipes, many of which will increasingly turn out to be undersized for Minnesota's future climate. One of my favorite writers (of fiction) has been quoted as saying "the future is already here, its just not evenly distributed." Duluth has experienced the future with last summer's storm. White Bear Lake is experiencing the future with the disappearance of it's lake. The Pipestone Water District is experiencing the future by sending water-intense businesses elsewhere to more abundant (for now) supplies. Another quote, this one picked up from before the time I became a recovering planner, "Trend is not destiny." Our Minnesota has some trends that are, to me at least, deeply disturbing. They don't have to be our destiny unless we can't reach agreement on an alternative future. State Planning Agency anyone? Oh wait, former Governor Pawlenty decided such an organization was a waste of taxpayers' dollars and eliminated it. God bless those Republicans for saving us money. Maybe we should also eliminate the DNR's water permitting section and then those pesky permit problems would also be gone. Thanks for stopping by. Please come again for positive suggestions and positively snark comments on improvements to our Minnesota.