Mar 222012
Authors: Jordan Kurtz

Brian Richter, the director of Global Freshwater Strategies for The Nature Conservancy, presented his “Meeting the Global Challenges of Water Scarcity” lecture to a crowd of more than 100 people in the North Ballroom of the Lory Student Center Thursday night.

As a world-renowned leader in water conservation and sustainability issues, Richter kicked off the first event in this installment of the Water Café series.

After an ovation-receiving introduction from CSU biology professor LeRoy Poff, Richter emerged from the back of the bulletin board-clad ballroom and broke the ice with a humble proclamation.

“My goal is to under promise and over deliver,” Richter said.

And deliver he did.

“I found it very informative,” current Ohio State University undergrad and prospective CSU student Clark Michael said. “It was very interesting to see all of the different issues.”

Richter, a CSU alumnus, said that he has enjoyed his time back in Fort Collins and is very proud of the work that CSU has done in the conservation arena, adding that universities like CSU are staying on the cutting edge of water conservation’s rapidly growing technology.

Richter focused on sustainability throughout the evening, making it very clear that the definition of this term varies greatly depending upon the location.

“Sustainability to us is to have a reliable supply of water, but also recognize that there are impacts when you use that water,” said Donnie Dustin, the water resources manager for Fort Collins. “You try to find a balance between meeting water needs and reducing demands and developing your water supplies to consider the environment as well.”

During his lecture, Richter also presented a graphic model that displayed the possible implications at different levels of water scarcity.

Certain regions of the world, such as the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia, have experienced severe droughts that have spanned more than a decade. Richter said the situation in the Murray-Darling basin is so extreme that the Australian federal government has created a water plan that mandates a 20 percent reduction in irrigated agriculture. This reduction has caused a loss of $800 million annually.

According to Richter, our society also consumes water in astounding quantities.

A healthy and hydrated human consumes about three quarts of water per day, but the average household usually uses around 12 gallons in the shower, 15 gallons in the washer, 19 gallons for the toilet and hundreds of gallons in landscape watering per day.

Richter added, however, that 90 percent of household water that is used, with the exception of landscape watering, is returned.

The water that is used in consumer products is being documented into a measurement called a “water footprint.” The water footprint for the average American is 800 gallons per day – the equivalent of 12 bathtubs, Richter said.

“We don’t want you to feel guilty about using water,” he added. Instead, he said he hopes that increasing the awareness of water conservation will spur more effective use of the life-essential resource.

Richter has worked with members of the National Geographic team to create a water footprint calculator, which can be found on the National Geographic website. The site allows the user to track their water footprint and use that data to help give them the information they need to consume water more efficiently.

The second part of Water Café event is Friday at 10 a.m. in the Cherokee Park Room of the Lory Student Center. The panel discussion will consist of Richter and Poff, as well as a panel of other CSU faculty members.

Collegian writer Jordan Kurtz can be reached at

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