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Coolest Graph Ever on Water Conservation

Annalisa Mueller-Eberstein | Sustainability Ambassadors

SUMMARY: This 6-minute talk presented by a 9th grade student is built around a single graph showing the relationship between population growth in our region and water consumption. The graph covers the time period from 1930 to 2014. The consumption data of millions of gallons per day is drawn from our primary water supply system which is managed by Seattle Public Utilities and Cascade Water Alliance. The presentation explores the historical explanations for rising or falling consumption rates and then turns to a fascinating inquiry on how we might design systems for zero net water use over the coming decades. How is that even possible? Is anyone doing it?

BIO: Annalisa Mueller-Eberstein, Class of 2020, is a member of Sustainability Ambassadors who attends the International Community School and represents the cities of Woodinville and Kirkland. Annalisa has a passion for working with the environment and her local community. As a dedicated change maker she wants to ensure that our government will protect the environment. Being on the executive council for her school's Tech Crew as the producer and her school's ASB (Associated Student Body) has made Annalisa a natural leader and collaborator. She is a tech savvy Ambassador who created a mini-documentary for National History Day (NHD) and went to the state competition. In the future, she wants to serve her local community by getting involved in government and policy.


1. Before watching the video… Use the graph as a standalone entry event to stimulate critical thinking. Download the graph and make copies for small groups. Support groups in reading the graph. What does the data on the graph tell us? What happened, when and why? Through facilitation, squeeze our all of the assumptions. Download graph

2. Pause the video at 2:32… Use the graph to support small group discussion imagining how the twin trajectories of population and water consumption might continue to diverge over the next couple of decades. Will our region’s population continue to grow? What are the drivers? Is this growth equitable for all members of our community? Where will it end? How do we plan for it? Ask about the downward trend in water consumption. How could our current population be about twice the population as in 1950 but be consuming at the same rate? What caused this decoupling of population and consumption? How low can we go? Play the video up to about 3:58, pause and invite more discussion around the same set of questions.

3. Engineering for net zero water consumption… Challenge small groups to apply the engineering design process to model a net zero water system for their home, apartment, school or entire community. What strategies does the video provide for us? How would we get all the way to net zero water?

4. Scenario Planning… Apply systems thinking to develop 2-3 scenarios for how our community or region might get to net zero water, a closed loop system that efficiently manages our entire annual rain budget for all uses. What are the current models that tell us this is possible? What are the probable prototypes and tipping points that will most likely get us to our goal? What are the technical, policy, behavioral, or economic factors that influence one scenario or another?

LINKS for Learning...

Download a pdf of the coolest graph ever. Download

Download full slide deck for this presentation. Download The information on this website will help you save water at your home, in your yard and garden, and at your business or organization.

Tips from Seattle Public Utilities on how to conserve water.

EPA Water Sense website helps you save water and protect the environment by choosing WaterSense labeled products in your home, yard, and business and taking simple steps to save water each day.

Learn more about zHome(video); market rate townhouses in Issaquah with incredibly low water conservation rates.

Learn more about zero net water at the Bullitt Center,(video) the greenest commercial office building in the world right here in Seattle.

The Department of Energy hosts an informative website on net zero water building strategies.

The path to net zero water from the perspective of the building construction and operations industry featuring six concise strategies for commercial buildings.

Making the switch to an integrated water management system in the Puget Sound region: A visionary report outlining how the Puget Sound basin is on the cusp of a transformational change in our approach to water infrastructure.

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