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Thread: Managing water as a limited, strategic and essential national resource

  1. #1 Managing water as a limited, strategic and essential national resource 
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    We see the news ... droughts in California, floods in Florida, etc. With the worsening of Climate Change far into the future, no matter who or what causes it .... Is now the time to declare water as a limited, natural, strategic and essential resource and to manage it at the federal level? After all, although it doesn't contain any nutrients or calories or whatever, everyone knows that it's essential to digestion and life, as well as essential to growing food (somewhat like a precursor).

    Should the feds create a national network of aqueducts and reservoirs for interstate water management and conservation? I'm not saying Florida's excessive rainfall should be sent directly to California, which would be quite a task no matter how it's done. However, isn't it possible to better manage this essential resource among local contiguous communities?

    In my own state, metro Boston municipalities get a significant amount of their water from Quabbin reservoir 65 miles to the west, which is shared among several watersheds/reservoirs along the way. This map shows the various aqueducts and reservoirs with Quabbin reservoir as the "anchor", if you will.

    I'm talking about something national, crossing state lines, going under or over mountains, perhaps using rivers for part of the system, and maybe tapping into Alaska's waters. Something to prevent another Dust Bowl disaster, destroying entire regions and damaging our ability to produce food for both domestic and foreign consumption. America depends strongly on growing and exporting food, and agriculture is of long-term strategic importance.

    I think we need a National Aqueduct System as much or more than we need a Petroleum Pipeline System.

    Even now, in a small local sense, it boggles my mind that a community will suffer from a water shortage, complete with water usage restrictions/rationing, and neighboring communities sit by and do nothing. Their systems are apparently not interconnected. Why is electricity, which is less essential to life, "shared" among communities, while water, which is more essential to life, is not?

    Facing more severe climate change in the future and for generations to come, shouldn't we be making our nation more robust and resilient to the devastation of climate change by creating a nationwide water management system?


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    Well, I can tell you one thing: You've got your finger on the pulse of an issue the top minds are thinking about. Just consider the work of Lockheed Martin, who's positioning themselves - as any good business with a bunch of 160 IQ guys would - to profit from coming issues:
    Lockheed Martin Desalination Graphene Filters - Business Insider

    Water security is poised to be a major issue in coming decades.

    But your talking about policy. I know guys in the private sector who have spent literally decades acquiring water rights from countless people, presumably to profit from coming issues. We live in a time in the US where policy makers must be dimwitted slaves, following behind the private sector. Even George Bush, in his private investments, has acquired large aquifers. Including a major one in South America.
    The Guarani Aquifer: a little known water resource in South America gets a voice – State of the Planet
    Of course he had to buy this as a private citizen, as US govt. Is too dimitted to make this kind of investment.

    Its infuriation stacked on infuriation. But I never forget the driving forces behind the US revolution, including the book of one man called The Age of Reason. I will never lose faith in the power of the people to embrace and fight for reason, as they did in the past, and use it to work out reasonable water rights, and other rights they need to live.


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    Quote Originally Posted by TridentBlue View Post
    ...Water security is poised to be a major issue in coming decades.
    ....

    .....I will never lose faith in the power of the people to embrace and fight for reason, as they did in the past, and use it to work out reasonable water rights, and other rights they need to live.
    Wars have been fought over water rights and wars over water rights will be fought again. One of the economic weapons Israel uses against the Palestinians is water access.
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  5. #4  
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    Nevermind the cost of the actual engineering and implementation of the aquifers. The nation will bankrupt itself on court costs. My brother in law actually specializes in this exact kind of civil engineering. I get to hear about his projects whenever his company has him move to a new place. Right now he's living just outside Sacramento, CA, working on a dam building project.

    He had a project a few years ago in Arizona that got totally shut down because someone argued in court that the water his company's aquifer was diverting belonged to them instead of the party the water would have gone to had his project been completed.

    The law is just too ambiguous about "who owns what" when it comes to water rights. It seems to allow land owners to consider a certain portion of the rainfall "belongs to them", as part of their land ownership. Hard to pry a claim of "property" out of the hands of people.
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    I favor a natural approach to securing our water resources, but this includes some unpopular decisions like NOT living in the middle of the f*cking desert because property is 4 cents an acre.

    Here in Indiana, we lose most of our natural water resources to agricultural drainage which could be mitigated by restoring wetlands. We don't do it now because restoring hydrologic features doesn't make a profit, but maybe putting it in the sense of national defense would get our Republican base to start giving a crap.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I favor a natural approach to securing our water resources, but this includes some unpopular decisions like NOT living in the middle of the f*cking desert because property is 4 cents an acre.
    Nor expecting a grassy golf course, lawn or to grow a high water using crop.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I favor a natural approach to securing our water resources, but this includes some unpopular decisions like NOT living in the middle of the f*cking desert because property is 4 cents an acre.

    Here in Indiana, we lose most of our natural water resources to agricultural drainage which could be mitigated by restoring wetlands. We don't do it now because restoring hydrologic features doesn't make a profit, but maybe putting it in the sense of national defense would get our Republican base to start giving a crap.
    They listen to private business just as much as the military. (Indeed, I think their interest in the military comes from their blind allegiance to defense contractors.)

    Private business wants water to become scarce. They can't charge for water services if it isn't scarce. From the conservatives' perspective, destruction of any community resource equals job creation.

    It's just funny how much the neolib economic logic loops back on itself sometimes. Don't let "inefficient" government prevent the waste.

    Instead let it go to waste so that "efficient" private enterprise make more of it and sell it to us. It all makes sense if you can understand double think. Those who can't understand double think are the problem. If only they'd just listen.
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    I'm sure nobody is actually saying those things in the boardrooms, but since that is the way the incentives are set up, it is certainly the direction economic activity is going to move in.

    Publicly funded wetland restoration profits nobody. It benefits lot of people, but it doesn't generate profit for anyone. At least not in a way that would show up on anyone's ledger.

    If we want environmental initiatives to go anywhere, that's the problem we need to address. Why is profit driven enterprise so influential in our government? Who represents the interests of the actual people themselves? It seems like right now it's all proxy. Our interests are represented by our employers on our behalf.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Publicly funded wetland restoration profits nobody. It benefits lot of people, but it doesn't generate profit for anyone. At least not in a way that would show up on anyone's ledger.
    People make good money doing wetland mitigation. There is a business opportunity there.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    We see the news ... droughts in California, floods in Florida, etc. With the worsening of Climate Change far into the future, no matter who or what causes it .... Is now the time to declare water as a limited, natural, strategic and essential resource and to manage it at the federal level?
    I have a much better solution - charge market prices for it. The problem will disappear in such areas almost overnight.

    "WHAT? Another $4000 water bill? That's it! I'm pulling out the grass and putting in xeriscaping."
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    Roughly 80% of water use in most nations is for agriculture. There are massive gains to be made with more efficient irrigation methods. For example, trickle field irrigation can reduce water use, compared to field flooding methods, by 90%. Desalination is fine for coastal city water supply, but cannot begin to supply the biggest water user - the farms.
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    "WHAT? Another $4000 water bill? That's it! I'm pulling out the grass and putting in xeriscaping."
    That doesn't have much of an effect, typically only deterring and making it harder on the poor while the rich easily continue to carry out their unsustainable practices. To someone rich, $4000 doesn't even rise an eyebrow. Scaled pricing schemes work a bit better.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Roughly 80% of water use in most nations is for agriculture. There are massive gains to be made with more efficient irrigation methods. For example, trickle field irrigation can reduce water use, compared to field flooding methods, by 90%. Desalination is fine for coastal city water supply, but cannot begin to supply the biggest water user - the farms.
    And these ideas are almost imperceptibly ingrained in culture (for want of a better word) of a region or industry.

    I remember being at a party in a country town in this state. The area was sheep and wheat growing mainly, but it was in South Australia. We're at the very end of the River Murray and the country was still in the throes of the biggest, longest drought ever. One couple I was talking to had recently visited relatives in NSW and those people had citrus orchards.

    They'd been horrified, you could still see it in their faces, by the irrigation "methods" they'd seen. They couldn't believe that anyone in Australia would be using ditches and channels - with the water exposed to the open air - to water fruit trees. When they'd asked their hosts about this, they couldn't see what the problem was.

    Trees need water, citrus trees need a constant supply of water, this was the way "everyone round here" waters their trees. The visitors had been saved from a permanent rift within the family only by dropping the subject. They did manage to mention that all the vineyards and orchards along the SA section of the river worked on drips and similarly targeted irrigation, but felt that their anger at the cavalier waste of such a precious resource would get them into a real fight so they left it at that.

    As for what the water is used for. I have a real problem with the idea of growing large expanses of cotton or rice or corn with water from the Murray-Darling system. There are areas which used to be dry scrub that have been converted to corn and similarly thirsty crops that would never have been dreamt of 50 years ago. Australians are the best dryland farmers in the world and we should use that expertise on dry lands rather than convert them to irrigated fields. I always think it's a bit amusing that Australians go over to Libya and other places in North Africa and the Middle East to advise on dryland farming. You'd think they'd already know - but traditional practices probably grew up in a more benign era, or at least one where the amount of grain produced per hectare wasn't such an important issue.

    (Personally, I can't wait for the world to get over its obsession about banning hemp/marijuana so that more fibre for items like bed and bath linen and jeans and work shirts can be grown with less water and fewer chemicals and give us useful items that won't fray or wear out so easily. Hemp might not be a "dry" crop, but it doesn't need anything like the amount of water cotton sucks up. )
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  15. #14  
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    Yes. Dry crop farming, and trickle field irrigation are two methods for extending the water supply. Another, which will come on line in the next ten years, is to genetically modify crops to make them drought resistant. Several genes have been isolated that give tolerance to dry conditions, and they have already been inserted successfully in test plants.

    The problem of limited fresh water supply is, of course, not a new one. Humanity keeps developing new methods of distributing fresh water to where it is needed, but the demand for fresh water keeps growing, and the two trends are barely in balance. I remember reading of Persian quanots. Way back in the Bronze Age, about 3000 years ago, the Persians were so desperate for more fresh water for agriculture that they dug tunnels, with bronze tools, by hand, over hundreds of kilometres, to carry water down from the mountains. They could not use canals, since the water would just evaporate, so they dug these very long tunnels, with just the occasional vertical shaft as a breathing and access hole.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Roughly 80% of water use in most nations is for agriculture. There are massive gains to be made with more efficient irrigation methods. For example, trickle field irrigation can reduce water use, compared to field flooding methods, by 90%. Desalination is fine for coastal city water supply, but cannot begin to supply the biggest water user - the farms.
    Maybe in most nations, but certainly not in all nations. Industrial water use is actually quite high and it can be quite wasteful if the costs are externalized.
    Water consumption Statistics - Worldometers
    Worldwide, agriculture accounts for 70% of all water consumption, compared to 20% for industry and 10% for domestic use. In industrialized nations, however, industries consume more than half of the water available for human use. Belgium, for example, uses 80% of the water available for industry.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    That doesn't have much of an effect, typically only deterring and making it harder on the poor while the rich easily continue to carry out their unsustainable practices. To someone rich, $4000 doesn't even rise an eyebrow. Scaled pricing schemes work a bit better.
    Most people aren't rich, and most of our water doesn't go to rich people's golf courses and swimming pools. However, poor people do want to become rich, and rich people want to stay that way.

    If you increased the price of water, then farmers, miners and oil/gas companies (where most of our water goes) would very quickly develop more economical methods of using water. Not because they are poor, or because they care about the environment, but because their investors and stockholders will demand they do so. Once you make water conservation a profitable endeavor, there is no limit to the amount of effort companies will put into it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    If you increased the price of water, then farmers, miners and oil/gas companies (where most of our water goes) would very quickly develop more economical methods of using water. Not because they are poor, or because they care about the environment, but because their investors and stockholders will demand they do so. Once you make water conservation a profitable endeavor, there is no limit to the amount of effort companies will put into it.
    It doesn't work that way with many commodities such as crops. It water conservation methods were cheaper they'd already be doing it. If you raise their expense in any way by making the water more expensive or forcing them into more expensive water conserving methods all you end up doing it reducing their profit margin or simply driving them out of business altogether because they can't compete with farmers from another state that don't have to spend the money they do.
    --

    In water short places such as Nevada, most residential use of water goes into lawns. But rather than a level charge, they developed a progressive rate which charges more per gallon as use increases. It provides a disincentive to waste water without unduly effecting the poor.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; May 4th, 2014 at 02:51 AM.
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