California's drought: water usage at music festivals

California is in a drought. No rain and not enough snow. Hardly any snow fell on the Sierras this winter and, as it is spring already, not a lot more snow is expected. Hence governor Jerry Brown's statement last week that California is more or less running on its water reserves and that we, the residents, need to cut down our water usage. The idea is to cut overall water consumption by 25%. Fair point, I thought. Do-able as well for the Stegeman-Sheard household. 

  Me and Lego Movie's good cop/bad cop, when it was still snowing in California

Me and Lego Movie's good cop/bad cop, when it was still snowing in California

But how bad is it really? California has been in a four year drought. Normally it relies on snowfall in the Sierras and the water coming from that should get the rest of the State through the summer. Besides the lack  of snow it also doesn't really rain in California. Already at the beginning of March I received an email from a ski resort near Lake Tahoe that they were closing for the season. Normally they close at the end of April. Go figure...

Residents will have to rethink how they're using water. That made me wonder how Californian festivals will deal with the drought. It's tricky to come up with an exact figure for water usage per person at a festival. How much water is used depends on where and when an event is taking place. It depends on the weather, the nature of the event, and on the audience. According to research done in 2009 by Stew Denny, a former student of mine, it was estimated that a visitor at Glastonbury Festival (UK) used about 13 liters of water per day. That's almost 3.5 gallons of water per person per day. 

So let's have a quick look at some festivals: Coachella (90,000 visitors per day), Lightning in a Bottle (15,000 visitors), and Bottle Rock (120,000 visitors) are only 3 of the many festivals here in California about to kick off the festival season. That's a lot of water... The key thing is that festivals need to look at how they can minimize their water usage. Lightning in a Bottle actively communicates to its audience their sustainable intentions. Some great ideas have also been implemented at several other festivals here in the USA. From faucet monitors to shower fairies and from dry showers to dishwashing programs, there are some great ideas out there. 

Are festival attendees aware how much water is used at festivals and do they know what happens to 'non drinking water'. You know, the water used at showers, the production  area, the staff kitchen, toilets, food stalls, bars. They all use water or they produce some form of water (sewage for example). It might be a good time for festivals to start creating awareness among their audiences about water usage at festivals.  

Earlier this year The Huffington Post published a story that carried the title 'ecstasy levels spike in rivers near major music festival in Taiwan'. Turns out that traces of xtc, ketamine, and caffeine found their way into the soil and river near the festival site. The effects on local wildlife are yet unknown. Think about that next time you squat behind some bushes. On their website Glastonbury Festival is asking their attendees to please use toilets and not to pee on the ground as it will  increase toxic levels of the water table. So there you have it... potty training done by festivals.

Meanwhile in Belgium they came up with something new. In 2014 Rock Werchter festival in Belgium introduced an onsite water treatment station. Unique in the world! This mobile water treatment unit collects sanitary and other wastewater the festival has produced in a holding basin. Within the basin the water is filtered and separated from the waste. All of it is done in a biological manner. A great initiative! 

  My e-book! It covers the subject of water as well... 

My e-book! It covers the subject of water as well... 

This week I've published an e-book. Event Management: Your Environmental Plan. It covers water usage at festivals as well. Coincident? I think not! 

The forecast is for rain tomorrow. Let's hope it actually rains this time... I think we need it.