Sunday, July 22, 2007

Water, Water All Around

There've been several discussions I've gotten involved in lately about the water situation. In North Texas, Lake Texoma between the two states (yes, Texas and Oklahoma) has been the reservoir (put in in 1943) was expected to keep water on hand for local towns and farmers forever. Now the demands on it have grown, and other lakes have been put in, but Dallas, not that far away, has needs growing faster than its resources. Presently Dallas is fighting it out with conservation areas to supply water for a growing population.

This is the growing problem throughout the American West, and in many other places as well. Recently, U.N. president Ban Ki-Moon (see Losing a World) pinpointed water conflicts as a major reason for the Darfur horrors, because formerly noncompeting populations found that their lives depended on a water supply that wasn't (shades of the American West) big enough for both of them. As global warming progresses, deserts are going to increase, as they are increasing now. The prospect of conflicts to come are not just dangerous to the underdeveloped countries. They're happening here as well.

Near here, Lubbock depends on the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground lake that made life livable there for long years, but is now being tapped out. I was looking at Lubbockonline this morning. It looks pretty bad.

Water's fallen everywhere but the spots we tap to drink.

Rains that have swamped streets, delayed construction and muddied fields around Lubbock have barely dampened the watershed of languishing Lake Meredith, the Sanford reservoir that was once the city's primary source of drinking water. That means directors of the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, which manages Meredith, must continue to mine the Ogallala Aquifer to provide drinking water to Lubbock and 10 other customer cities. General Manager Kent Satterwhite declined to say by how much the levels of their well fields in Roberts County had fallen, but the well fields need a break.......Pumping in the Ogallala, a massive, underground formation stretching from the Texas Panhandle into Nebraska, outpaces how quickly the resource can replenish itself. It also requires much more energy - and therefore money - to pull water out of the ground than to pipe it out of a lake.

Another crisis of course, is happening in Las Vegas, a city built on total disregard of the resources a city needs in order to survive.

Central Nevada farmers like Roderick McKenzie fear booming Las Vegas is going to suck them dry. They're fighting a plan to pump billions of gallons of water south across the desert, saying it would eat up groundwater supplies and could spell the end for ranchers and farmers in rural valleys. With one ruling in hand for billions of gallons of rural Nevada water, the water supplier for sprawling southern Nevada is pressing for billions of additional gallons a year - in a move that pits farmers and ranchers against developers eager to keep the gambling mecca booming. ...."The availability of water in these basins is highly suspect," added Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. "It's a desert, with barely water enough for the farmers and ranchers whose lives depend on it."

"SNWA could turn this vast area into a national sacrifice zone for the sake of unchecked growth in Las Vegas," Fulkerson said.

For now, these battles are being fought out in council meetings and are conducted with civility, for the most part. To hark back to an earlier hint, though, the words from our Western history "this place isn't big enough for both of us" presaged violence to come. There's a history of violence in the growing competition for resources. It's coming to real shortages, to be experienced by real people. We need to plan now to keep from disasters to come.

Los Angeles had the least rainfall in its history this year. Use of recycled 'grey water' has been suggested.

North and South Central Texas received record amounts. That does not need to be ominous. An executive branch with wisdom would be working on this coming contretemps now.

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