In an effort to alleviate the droughts, we are pumping water out of the ground that can’t be replaced. Aquifer water supplies half of our fresh water needs, but as we continue to pump it out of the ground, a looming crisis is just around the corner.
With the developing water crisis, what can we do or what are we doing to alleviate future devastation? What can we do to prevent water from becoming a precious, private commodity available to the rich and scarce to the poor?
We’ve already mentioned desalination. However, desalination has several problems: it is very expensive; very energy use intensive; pumps pull in sea life and kill it, potentially killing entire species or ecosystems; finally, creates about half fresh water from salt water with the other half (brine) sometimes too salinated to put back and sometimes still containing chemicals.
In fact, the brine created from the desalination can contain such chemicals as chlorine, which when mixed with other chemicals can create carcinogens. Acids are another result which can breakdown and destroy tissues in living organisms.
There are alternatives for the present way we utilize desalination, including by way of renewable energy, better pumps and better filters. But are there other ways to manage the water we have prior to having to use desalination?
A watershed is an area in which water from different sources collects into one single place – from both above and below ground. Usually, management of the different sources of this water is fragmented and done by different agencies or departments – some without even the scientific knowledge needed for proper management. Watershed management is when the entire water source is managed in one place. Plans, programs, conservation, etc are all implemented for better water use. Water rights, conservation, quality, drainage, supply, etc are managed by teams of real scientists from disciplines such as storm water experts, environmental experts, as well surveyors and planners.
The Vermont Watershed Management Division encompasses the following:
- Monitoring, Assessment & Planning
- Ecosystem Restoration Program
- Lakes & Ponds
Some links to learn more about watershed management:
Infrastructure – the decidedly unsexy fix
According to watermainbreakclock.com, 850 water main breaks occur EVERY DAY in North America. Since 2000, we have seen over 4 million water main breaks and today alone, at 11:50 am, 423 water main breaks already occurred!
In 2014, California experienced a water main break that spewed 20 million gallons of water into the LA area. Water main breaks are the cause of over 2.5 TRILLION gallons of fresh drinking water a year.
WTH!? These are staggering statistics, so for god’s sake, lets fix the damn pipes! Yes, it is an expensive and difficult fix. Corrosion of pipes is responsible for the major number of main breaks (we’re not even going to get into what that corrosion does to our health, but you can see what one of the corroded pipes looks like and pretty much draw your own conclusions!)
Whether we use PVC pipe or steel lined with concrete, we have got to fix the crumbling infrastructure. Investment is doing just that is beyond most regional governments and must be the project of the federal government. Such an investment would also create jobs and put money into individual economies.
Americans use more water than any other country on earth. According to the United Nations Development Program – Human Development Report 2006 (updated May, 2014), Americans use over 550 litres of water per person, per day. Australians use over 500 litres a day, and comparatively, Chinese a little over 75 litres a day and, Germany about 175 litres.
What are Americans doing with all this water?! Basically, we are squandering it – like we do with so many other resources in this country. Our greed and love of instant gratification leads us to use water with little regard for conservation.
Below are water calculators you can use to see where you can help. The second link will take you to a conservation challenge, as well:
Wind & Solar – uh oh, those ugly words again!
While the debates rage on over wind and solar, in this blogger’s mind, the debate is over when we look at the sheer volume of water it takes to produce electricity.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists,
“Take the average amount of water flowing over Niagara Falls in a minute. Now triple it. That’s almost how much water power plants in the United States take in for cooling each minute, on average.”
So, next week, we look at water and energy and other things we can and are doing to help alleviate the water crisis.