The IF Water Conference, the first IdeaFestival 2012 event – or at least the first IF pre-event – was standing room only this afternoon at Todd Hall in the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.
I only had time to sneak away for lunch to hear keynote Gill Holland’s noon presentation, which was moderated by WaterStep founder Mark Hogg.
But we’ll have more posts from IdeaFest all week and into the weekend.
Holland’s main point t0day was, with increasing droughts and increasing world population, 2012 is a crisis moment for water.
But in every crisis is an opportunity to change behavior.
This summer’s droughts should get Louisvillians thinking about their “water footprint,” Holland said.
“Everyone is conscious of their energy footprint, but no one thinks about their water footprint.”
Holland, whose Louisville-based The Group Entertainment produced the 2010 water documentary “FLOW: For the Love of Water,” acknowledged we are “incredibly lucky” to be on the banks of the Ohio River, which flows about one million gallons of fresh water per second past Louisville.
The rest of the world, and even the United States, doesn’t have the same luck. At least one billion people in the developing world spend hours of each day fetching potable water, Holland said. Even a toilet is an unimaginable luxury, the lack of which is a major barrier to economic development.
He presented data that indicates a shocking percentage of the world’s tiny supply of fresh water – 2.5 percent of all the water on Earth – is used on inefficient agriculture categories.
Who doesn’t. But one pound of beef in the supermarket represents 2,000 gallons of water starting with the steer and going through the process to cleaning the slaughter house, Holland said.
Pork consumes the smallest water footprint, “so we’re eating a lot more pork at our house.”
Out of greater water awareness is coming innovation, Holland said, from drip irrigation to new conservation agricultural methods to drought-resistant crops.
Holland said he sees future entrepreneurs developing technology for micro-metering home and business water usage the way Louisville-based Genscape monitors the energy business.
He sees more people adopting green roofs and more industries using partially filtered waste water, or “gray water”: “In a lot of cases, industry doesn’t care if it’s that clean.”
Ultimately, water may turn today’s loser cities into winners, Holland said.
Detroit, he said, sits aside the Great Lakes, which hold 20 percent of the fresh water on Earth.
As cities in the arid west have deeper water crises, the struggling auto center may be destined to become “a boom town.”
But it all comes down to “how we leverage our water resources,” he said.
“People always take from nature,” he said.
“When was the last time we actively gave back to nature?”
More as our reporters report in.