Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Our Dilemma with Water


"Is it possible to have this much water and still be thirsty?"

We live in a world of contradictions. We live in a world of constantly changing circumstances. We live in a world which confuses many, including myself.

One of the most confusing topics as of late is water. Do we have enough, too much, or are we running out? There has been a bevy of news stories as of late on the subject of water. Here are just a few:
  • Some climate scientists now say a big part of the Antarctica Ice Shelf is melting and will break completely off in the next two centuries. The effect of this will be a rise in sea levels of up to four feet.
  • Despite a very wet winter and spring, White Bear Lake in the metro area continues to have historically low water levels. Some state hydrologists believe it will not matter how much rain we get, as the cause is a depletion of the aquifers under parts of the Twin Cities.
  • The desert southwest, as well as California, continues to be in the grip of a lengthy heat wave and drought. It was reported this past week that a town in Arizona is on the verge of running out of water.
It is time to separate the fact from the fiction. First off, the surface of this planet is mostly water. 71% to be exact, with over 95% of that being sea water. As it currently exists, this huge amount of water is unusable to humans. However, for decades now, we have had the technology to change sea water into fresh water, and fresh water into potable water. Simply put, baring a catastrophic event like a GRB or massive asteroid hit, the Earth will never run out of water.

I have addressed the state of our aquifers before. Like any other resource, there is a beginning and an end. The aquifers do regenerate, however the rate of replenishment is nowhere near the rate of depletion. Until we come to grips with this problem, we will continue to see shallow wells running dry, lakes shrinking, and massive sink holes appearing. This is a problem which does not need to happen.

With the desert southwest, did I mention the word "desert"? They have been living on borrowed time and a whole lot of luck. The sources of renewable water in the southwest are very limited - when those sources do not produce, and the growth rate continues to be over 3%, well, we can all do the math.

However, right next to the desert southwest is the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. We will soon find out that fresh water is a commodity with a value similar to gold or oil. Without fresh water, a country has very limited potential and opportunity. With abundant fresh water, that can be turned into potable water, a country has the opportunity to thrive.

My belief is in the near future we will see many initiatives to conserve and find new sources of water. There is no easy of cheap way out. Water, like oil, is abundant in America. We have three shores that border oceans. We can have enough water to never, ever worry about the effects of drought on our food supply again. We have enough water to populate the desert southwest to our heart's content. All it takes for this to happen is national will. We have the knowhow, we just need the will. 

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