The Real Water Problem

In the last century, schools taught a simple maxim: “Water is neither created nor destroyed”. Every school child knew this; it was like gravity – an indisputable fact. Well, times they do change but this is still a concrete fact in our lives.

Now, we find ourselves on an over-stressed planet, living in drought-stricken areas, wondering where all that water that is “neither created nor destroyed” has gone. Are we running out of clean water? Just misallocating it? Wasting too much? Or, are we choosing to live in the wrong places?

Mono_Lake,_CA

The amount of fresh water on planet earth has been pretty constant since the last ice age – an inconvenient fact, but never the less true. So what’s the “real problem” with the droughts we are experiencing in the western United States? Weather, for sure, explosive population growth, yep, antiquated infrastructure that too. Yet we seem to prefer blaming someone instead of doing something. Yes, the earth’s climate is changing. It has been changing since dinosaurs roamed the planet, and probably before that. We hear “save the planet”, but not save mankind. We can safely assume the planet will be here long after humans are not. In the meantime, most of us are stuck here unless we plan on moving to Mars.

So here we are: short of clean water, living in densely populated areas throughout the West, and enjoying the life. We need more clean water to continue our lifestyles but as mentioned earlier, the amount on earth is fixed. Sure we Westerns can use less water, farmers can grow more water efficient crops, but who wants to eat only cactus pears?

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 12.38.05 PMFor reasons, whatever they are, rainfall amounts have changed. That’s right, water that should fall in the western US now falls elsewhere. Unless we become water nomads and follow the rain like our ancestors followed the sheep, the buffalo, the gazelles, or the reindeer, we need a practical, real world water solution with minimum impact on planet earth. Here’s where any idea, proposal or possible solution gets contentious.

We need to have a meaningful discussion about water. We need to set aside our engrained viewpoints, and we need to begin soon.

If we don’t address our water shortage, the western USA will soon resemble the Mesopotamian fertile crescent in the Tigris – Euphrates valley, the biblical land of milk and honey – but without the milk, without the honey, and without the water.