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Was This Summer a Game Changer When It Comes to Climate Change & Water?

Klaus Reichardt

In 2018, Media Matters, a watchdog group, reported that over a two-week period from late June (2018) to July (2018), ABC, CBS, and NBC, the three major networks in the U.S., aired a combined 127 segments that discussed the heat wave then impacting much of the country. However, only one, CBS This Morning, mentioned two words that appear to get some people very charged up, and those two words are “climate change.”

There’s more to it than just the fact that some people get “charged up” when the words climate change are spoken on the air. According to Chris Hayes, who is the host of MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes, back in 2018, “every single time we’ve covered climate change, it’s been a palpable ratings killer.” He adds that his network, as with most cable news networks, is totally focused on ratings and that climate change is a “ratings killer.”

Despite the media blackout, most scientists worldwide say that the intense weather experienced in the summer of 2018 is fueled by climate change. But what about today? Are things getting better or worse? Let’s examine this.

Proof in Numbers

In California, the summer of 2020 is now considered far worse than in 2018. In 2018, almost two million acres were scorched by fires. By 2019, that number grew to 4.2 million, and in 2020, it rose again to 8.6 million acres.

We don’t know yet how many acres of land were burned this summer, but it is looking bad.

So, at this point, is it time for us to recognize that climate change—for whatever causes—is real? This past summer may have been the game changer scientists and environmentalists have been expecting, possibly even hoping for—hoping for because they want people, businesses, and governments to wake up and take steps now to avert a potential disaster.

We also need to know that these climate changes will impact us all, including the hospitality industry and the green hotel industry.

And one of our big concerns today is water.

“An extreme set of cascading climate events is pushing us into this crisis [when it comes to water],” said Jordan Traverso, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Wildlife and Fish. She adds that the U.S. west is grappling with a historic drought, and the recent heat waves, worsened by climate change, are stressing waterways and reservoirs that sustain millions of people and wildlife.

The current data backs her up. For instance, in our most populous state, California, with 40 million people, more than 85 percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought, the two highest drought classifications. Marin County, north of San Francisco, has declared a state of emergency, and Sonoma County, just north of Marin, is on the verge of doing the same.

So, what do we need to do now, particularly as it applies to water? Here are my suggestions, particularly for the hospitality and the green hospitality industry:

Think Big

As individuals, organizations, hotel properties, and society, we must think big about reducing water consumption. Installing aerators in faucets and showers is a start, but we must go much further.

Expect to Pay More for Water

I’m sure no hotel operator wants to hear this, but the reality is that if there are more realistic charges for water, it will spur new technologies to be introduced. Fortunately, we are reaching that stage now, and many technologies are now available with a relatively fast return on their investment, due to reduced water and sewer charges and other operational expenses.

Repair Water Infrastructure

As this is being written, the federal government is debating infrastructure legislation. Whatever your views on the subject, the reality is that we have avoided repairing water infrastructure for decades. That’s the key reason we have about 240,000 water breaks annually in America.

Reduce or Eliminate Water Consumption

Possibly hotel managers are unaware of this, but the professional cleaning industry, realizing that billions of gallons of water are used each year in professional cleaning, are investing in new cleaning equipment that requires less water to operate. Further, we must look at irrigation programs and most especially, restroom and bathroom fixtures. Many California properties are now installing new waterless urinals for the simple but powerful reason they reduce water consumption dramatically.

We should be able to get through this. Climate change and droughts are real, but they can still be addressed. We just must start thinking big.

About the Author

A frequent speaker and author on water conservation issues, Klaus Reichardt, is the founder and Managing Partner of Waterless Co. Inc., Vista, Calif. Reichardt founded the company in 1991 with the goal to establish a new market segment in the plumbing fixture industry with water efficiency in mind. The company’s principal product, the waterless urinal, works entirely without water.