Humanities program hits home

Dan O’Leary, a former Peace Corps volunteer in a rural water supply program in Morocco, talks with speaker Rachel Cardone at the Waterville Library Oct. 6 following Cardone’s Humanities Washington presentation, “H2OMG! Making Sense of Water Scarcity in an Insecure World.” (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)


By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

David Thompson of Wenatchee talks with Waterville Mayor Royal DeVaney following the Oct. 6 Humanities Washington presentation at the Waterville Library. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

Water scarcity and solutions for addressing it proved to be a topic that caught the sustained interest of the audience for the Humanities Washington program “H2OMG! Making Sense of Water Scarcity in an Insecure World” presented Oct. 6 at the Waterville Library.

The presenter was Rachel Cardone, who has spent the last 20 years working as a water specialist throughout the world. One of the projects Cardone worked on was to establish the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Program for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Cardone is currently working as an independent consultant.

Her presentation brought the audience around the world and back home again in terms of issues related to the scarcity, importance, ethics and economics of water.

Cardone included several discussion questions as part of the program, and the audience members also had the chance to bring up their own points of discussion related to water.

David Thompson, a resident of Wenatchee who attended the presentation, spent his career designing irrigation systems. He shared that when he was a teenager and helped with the wheat harvest on the Waterville Plateau showers were operated from a pull chain for a quick dowsing with water brought in by bucket. The lack of infrastructure ensured conservation.

Waterville Mayor Royal DeVaney discussed some of the struggles that the Town of Waterville is having with water scarcity, in addition to the struggles of motivating residents to cut down on water use, especially for irrigation.

One of the discussion points introduced by Cardone was the case of Microsoft opening a data center in Quincy. Data centers consume large amounts of water for cooling, and Quincy did not have a large amount of water to spare. Microsoft built a water treatment plant to reuse water from food processing plants for cooling at the data center. After the water is used for cooling, it is filtered again and returned to the aquifer. Cardone said this case was featured at a recent international conference among specialists in her field.

The topic of water brought out so much discussion from the audience that Cardone had to interrupt it to bring the presentation to a close. Participants stayed afterwards to talk about the issues they see related to water scarcity.