Lynn Scarlett, a visiting scholar at Resources for the Future, emphasized the importance of ecosystem services or the idea of protecting natural infrastructure such as forests that absorb storm runoff. Roughly 2.7 miles of sea marsh protection can reduce storm surges by a foot, she said, citing federal government statistics.
Many localities using green infrastructure and other conservation measures have saved money over time, she said.
Oregon saved $60 million by paying farmers to plant miles of shade trees to cool down water flowing through the Tualatin River Basin, she said. The move was necessary to comply with regulations governing the temperature of water flowing from wastewater plants upstream.
The savings resulted from not having to install refrigeration plants to cool down the water from the plants, she said. Climate change threatens to heat water above acceptable levels in many other localities, she said.
Keeling of IBM said that technology -- such as South Bend's use of the computing cloud -- definitely can play an important role in water conservation. In Dubuque, Iowa, city officials recently installed a "real-time" computing system to monitor water consumption every 15 minutes.
The system automatically notifies households of problems such as water leaks and resulted in decreased water usage of 6.6 percent during the test pilot, she said.
At the same time, technology will not solve ongoing challenges such as a lack of coordination among the 53,000 water agencies in the United States, she said. Businesses need to gain a better sense of how much water they are actually using via sensors and meters, she said.
"Technology is never the end; it's always the means," said Keeling.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500