I spent a good part of this week wrist-deep in tubs of water. Just my wrists and hands, mind you, although when the water was warm I was tempted to climb in with the print I was attempting to remove from it’s backing board. Bending over a tub while removing mat fragments from the surface of another print, I had time to think about water.
It’s a topic I come to often – one with a hefty portion of guilt attached. I’m one of those people who makes sure to turn off the tap while I brush my teeth. If I leave a glass of water sitting overnight, I toss it on a plant instead of down the drain. I’m careful about our water-using appliances at home. I have a garden made up of agave, sage, and yucca, and I water my veggies sparingly – poor things. I pay attention to the dwindling resources and water fights in this country and others. I feel pretty sure the next world war, or our very own civil war, won’t be over oil, but potable water.
So when it comes time to pour gallons of water down the drain every work week just to make pieces of paper a bit more flexible, a bit less brown, I flinch. And I wonder how to reconcile the actions of my career with the needs of the global community, just as I do at home.
I don’t have any answers yet, but I plan to talk about this fairly often on this blog. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Eventually, I’d like to form some sort of discussion group, but if all that happens is that I get some people thinking, that’ll be good too. There’s a lot to discuss. I have ideas…
Here are some:
- Re-examine paper washing research through the lens of water efficiency. For example, is blotter washing effective enough, even when the media could handle immersion? Would the water savings offset the water needed to rinse or recycle blotter? (And how much paper/blotter recycling happens in paper labs, anyways?). What about shallow, frequently changed baths vs. deeper, longer ones?
- Start measuring exactly how much water is used during the course of treatment, to increase water use awareness.
- Measure the environmental impact of what we pour down the drain
- Explore the possibility of instituting gray water recycling and installation of water-saving devices, especially in all those new green-built facilities.
So, please, let me know your ideas!