July 2008

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club, July 13th, 2008

Thank you to Ike and Julie Broaddus for hosting our meeting!  Thank you also to all who provided such wonderful food- we certainly eat well at our meetings!

Five Minute Flash Reports:

Treasurer’s Report-  Ike kindly filled in for Lisa Richard with the treasurer’s report, summing things up quite nicely with: We have a little money but not much so if you would like to make a donation to help with yearly expenses such as the website it would be much appreciated. We’re not a 501(c)3 so donations are not tax deductible.

Fauquier for Obama- Maura Granered, co-chair of the Fauquier for Obama group, spoke to us about the soon to be open office in Old Town Warrenton.  The office is located in the Fauquier Bridges Building at 50A So. 3rd St., 2nd floor.  This coming Sat., July 19th, there will be a “soft opening” beginning at 11:30.  Please contact Maura for more information: 349-1987 (home)  540-272-2588 (cell).

[Scribe’s note:  After being made aware of the issue of lack of accessibility for the disabled at the Warrenton office the Fauquier for Obama group is actively seeking accessible office space.  We’ll keep you posted.]

Obama’s Virginia Campaign -  Shira Sternberg joined us to fill us in on the grass roots plans of the Obama campaign.  Every vote is important in this election and their strategy addresses this.

1) Voter registration- as an added incentive, the 5 Virginia volunteers who register the most voters will have the opportunity to meet personally with Barack Obama.
2) Contact with “sporadic” Democrats to encourage them to get involved and, most importantly, to get out and vote.
3) Persuasion.

Coordinated Campaign – Shira is working closely with Naomi Eskin of the Coordinated Campaign.  As Naomi explained, the mission of the Coordinated Campaign is to work for all Democratic candidates.  By focusing on growing a large volunteer based organization the Campaign is working toward two main goals:

1) Turning Virginia “Blue” for the first time in 44 years
2) Party Growth/Party Development- The Democrats need to put themselves in a good position for 2009 and for 2010, the year in which redistricting will occur.

Veterans for Obama – Mike Turner has been appointed the Vets for Obama and Vets for Warner regional director for Fauquier County.  As he couldn’t be with us tonight Jean Loup Combemale spoke about these important groups and encouraged all interested parties to get in touch with Mike at:  mrturner13@gmail.com.

Disability Issues – Martha Toomey talked of the important yet often neglected issues concerning the rights of the disabled.  She has been appointed by Governor Kaine to the Virginia Board for People With Disabilities: http://www.vaboard.org/default.htm She also works with the Mark Warner campaign on their steering committee for disability issues.  Martha encouraged us all to be aware that although disability issues are rarely mentioned during the campaigns, those with disabilities want to vote and have the desire and the right to be involved in the process.

Wise County Power Plant – Bill Day informed us that in spite of vigorous objections Dominion Power’s coal fired power plant has been approved.  Governor Kaine and other legislators argue that the plant will be a win/win for the state and the county.  Others believe that  although construction of the plant will generate some jobs the permanent jobs at the plant will not go to the locals but to outsiders with experience running power plants.  Bill is planning a trip to Wise County. Please contact him at wsdayjr@gmail.com if you are interested in accompanying him.

Dominion Power Lines – Georgia Herbert kindly stepped up to give us an update on the status of the power lines.  This issue is still before the State Corporation Commission.  Dominion’s justifies the need for this line by arguing the danger of future power shortages.  In order to prove their point they assumed a number of things:

•    The unprecedented growth of the last years will continue.
•    No conservation efforts will be taken.
•    Net metering (power given back to the grid) will not take place.
•    No additional power plants will be built (including the aforementioned Wise County Plant as well as their proposed nuclear plant).

The hearing examiner has ordered them to go back and refigure their calculations using different assumptions and Piedmont Environmental Council had the opportunity to comment on their refiguring.  For details please read the PEC email posted on the SSC website: http://sundaysupperclub.org/?q=node/3136  In spite of the great job done by PEC this is not an easy fight- Georgia pointed out that Dominion Power had 100 lobbyists registered for the 2008 General Assembly session.

Water in Fauquier County – Al Benkelman reported that this issue is not being adequately addressed by the county.  We do not have adequate maps to help us understand the potential effects of continuing to sink deep wells.  We don’t know what affect this will have on individual more shallow wells.

Board of Cascades Community Association – John Lane shared with us his experience with last year’s water emergency in Loudoun County.  The Board of Cascades Community Association, an organization representing 6,000 homes, has been working on water conservation projects.   According to John, average water usage is 100 gallons per day per resident.  Their goal is to reduce 3rd quarter water consumption by 10%.

Guest Speaker

We were very pleased to welcome  Lynn Broaddus, joining us all the way from Wisconsin to speak on the topic of : “The Future of Fresh Water: Think Globally, Act Locally”.     Lynn, aka Ike’s big sister, has a very impressive resume of work with environmental groups.  After a decade working for The Nature Conservancy and two years as the Director of U.S. Network Partnerships for NatureServe, a non-profit based in Arlington, VA, she now runs Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers.  Lynn also serves as Board President of the Milwaukee Environmental Consortium and Board Treasurer for the River Alliance of Wisconsin.

(As always I offer the caveat that my notes will not do justice to the speaker’s knowledge or passion on the subject.  At the end of the minutes I’ve included a number of internet links to enable you to explore this important subject in more depth.)

Lynn began by stressing that water is “the next oil” and that many future conflicts will be over water.  The growing importance of this issue is evidenced by the increasingly frequent news stories on this subject: desertification of Africa, water contamination in Burma, sewage backups due to storm water overflow, increasing salinity in the Great Lakes due to road salt run off, dropping water levels in our lakes and rivers,  a retrospective on the Rio Grande in the Post style section (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/06/AR2008070601730.html?sub=AR)

Globally, water consumption is increasing dramatically- doubling every 20 years.  This increase is driven by industrialization more than by population growth.  It is estimated that by 2025 one third of the world’s population will not have access to clean water.

•    In the U.S. total water consumption has leveled off.
•    The average daily water usage is 100 gallons per person.
•    Roughly ½ of water use goes for power generation- both coal fired plants and nuclear plants use a lot of water.  The next biggest use is for irrigation and agriculture followed by industrial use and the public water supply.
•    Water authorities are not necessarily interested in water conservation as they do not want to scare off development.
•    Rivers are running dry all over the country due to lawn watering, crop irrigation, water diversion to cities.
•    Transportation of water is very expensive as water is extremely heavy to move.
•    Desalinization is incredibly energy intensive.

4 Main Messages

1. We are having a major groundwater crisis because we are pumping out water faster than we are replenishing it.  This is due to a number of factors including the increasing amount of impervious surfaces such as cement and manicured lawns (interestingly, water absorption rates for lawns are not that different from those of cement).  Water runs off these surfaces, the base flow decreases and we experience more flooding.
2.    All water is connected.  We can’t separate ground water from surface water.
3.    We do not have a water shortage problem.  Rather the problem is that we are using what we do have stupidly.  We must learn to differentiate between “the water we want and the water we need.”
4.    All water use is tied into energy use.  Water problems are exacerbated by global warming.

Water Quality Factoids

•    Dams are not good for water quality or for the environment.
•    As water soaks into the ground it is cleaned and also cooled.  The cooler water carries more oxygen than warm water.  This is good for aquatic life.
•    The faster water runs off the surface the less time it has to be cleaned and cooled.  Additionally, the faster run off causes more erosion.

Local Issues

•    In Virginia we have a salt water intrusion problem in Tidewater.
•    All residents of Fauquier drink from ground water.
•    Current efforts to raise standards for water quality in the Rappahannock River are extremely important.

Ways We Waste Water (sorry, I couldn’t resist the alliteration)

•    Creation of more impervious surfaces.
•    Sewage treatment facilities which treat water and then send it out into lakes/bays where it is lost to us.
•    Failing infrastructures- pipes leading to sewage treatment facilities are old and have lots of cracks.  This allows ground water to enter the pipes and results in clean water being lost to treatment facilities.  For example, in Boston a study showed that more than 50% of “sewage” treated is actually clean water.  For many locales the goal is to have no greater than 15% leakage.  This is too high!

Ways To Save Water

•    Low impact development- pervious pavements, rain barrels, trees …
•    Recycle – paper manufacturing is an extremely water intensive industry.
•    Installing low flush toilets (the high end brands work quite well).
•    Use non-potable water for outdoor irrigation (water from rain barrels, dehumidifiers, fish tanks …)
•    Go to http://loudounwater.org/water/conservation/tips.cfm?pl1=4&pl2=1 for 100 water conservation tips.

Economics of Water

•    Flat rate- each gallon of water costs the same amount.
•    Declining block structure- volume discount for water.  This is used in areas which have lots of water as a way to attract water intensive industry.
•    Inclining block structure- once water use climbs above a set minimum a premium is charged per gallon.  In some areas this has been shown to increase conservation.

My take away messages:

•    Water conservation and energy conservation go hand in hand.
•    Don’t drink bottled water.
•    As with all issues we care about, citizen engagement is imperative.

As engagement requires education, Lynn kindly has provided the following resources:


*Water Follies,* by Robert Glennon. (2006??) This book is a terrific overview on the nation’s groundwater issues.  Very readable.  Available in paperback for about $13.

*Handbook of Water Use and Conservation* by Amy Vickers.  This book is expensive (about $100), but is THE bible on water conservation.  Sadly this is not available in the Fauquier  County Public libraries though perhaps it should be.

Websites and Organizations:

Potomac Riverkeeper.org  (http://www.potomacriverkeeper.org/cms/index.php):  Though their work focuses on the Potomac watershed, the information on the website is quite useful, especially on fish, pharmaceuticals, etc.

Friends of the Rappahannock (http://riverfriends.org/):   based in Fredricksburg and working on the Rappahannock.  Lots of information and activities specific to the watershed.  Can order rain barrels through them.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (http://www.cbf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=homev3″):  Phenomenal information source.  Click on their issues section, and you’ll find all kinds of stuff on fisheries, the dead zone (hypoxic zone, which is growing and apparently starting to spread into the individual rivers such as the  Rappahannock).  Here’s where getting cattle out of the streams, and reducing the amount of short grass and impervious pavement can really make a difference.  For a specific report from CBF on the dead zone, check out http://www.cbf.org/site/DocServer/CBF_BadWatersReport.pdf?docID=10003

And if you’re near an IMAX theater this summer, keep your eyes peeled for the film “Grand Canyon Adventure”.  It’s a rafting trip down the Colorado, but it highlights some of our water problems, especially those of western rivers.

Another link I found is http://www.cleanairgardening.com/   Here you can purchase rain barrels and assorted other nifty things.

Also, check out our very own SSC website for important articles on the subject.  Thanks go to Linda Swanson for diligently posting articles!    http://www.sundaysupperclub.org/?q=taxonomy/term/82

We are so grateful to Lynn for sharing her energy, knowledge and passion for conservation with us!

Save the Dates

You won’t want to miss the interesting meetings we have planned!

Aug. 10th-  Mike McCoy from Appalachian Voices will educate us on the topic of mountaintop removal.

Sept. 14th- Mark Hackley, Food Procurement Office for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, will share with us about the increasingly vital work of the Food Bank.

Oct. 12th- State Senator Jill Vogel

Nov.  9th- Happy Anniversary to us!  Come help the SSC celebrate our 4th year and join in the planning for our 5th.

Respectfully submitted,
Andrea Martens