Friday, June 26, 2009

Out Here, Where The Water Isn't, BIG Change Is Needed

Way out on the windswept desert,
Where nature favors no man

Chief Buffalo found his brother
At rest on the sunbaked sand.

He says "My brother, what ails you
That illness treat you this way?"

But his brother never said,
Cuz his brother was dead,

Been dead since way last May."
--Jimmy Rodgers "Big Chief Buffalo Nickel"

There's probably better than an even chance that anthropogenic global climate change will render the USer southwest uninhabitable in a not-too-far-distant time: say a century or so, give or take a decade or two. It is already dry here (in Albuquerque, where to my considerable perturbance, the "monsoon" seems to have begun at least a month too soon, by historical standards), the region having experienced localized droughts of durations varying from two, to 10 or even 12 years. In fact, the "droughts" of the past 15-20 years are so pervasive in the region, and of such duration, that many climatologists believe the period against which the "droughts" are measured may itself have been a (wet) anomaly in the historic arc of the region's climate.

Nevertheless, the population of the region is growing radically, with immigrants from the rust/snow belt of the US, as well as those coming north from Latin America for work. So, for the next 100 years anyway, the civil authorities are going to have to try to meet increasing demand with diminishing supply. Luckily, these realities seem to have been grasped by certain officials high in the Governments where many adjustments loom, including some Governors of the region's States.

Peter Gleick, of the renowned and respected Pacific Institute, recently had the chance to discuss the issues of water, conservation, use, and replacement with some of the governors and/or other key State officials, and a precis of his presentation is available now at Alternet.
The number of Governors and Premiers from the western U.S. and Canada that attended the water briefing at the Western Governors Association (WGA) meeting. My own Governor, Governor Schwarzenegger, who has not been nearly as well informed on water as he is on climate, was absent.

Let me summarize what I proposed they consider in the coming years:
  • Rethink supply and demand
  • Improve institutional management
  • Protect water quality
  • Integrate climate change into all water planning
(Each point is elaborated at some length in the article. I present only highlights here. Emphases supplied. W)

During the Q&A, we discussed the proper level and role for water management, the idea of innovative groundwater storage as opposed to new dams, the role of international mechanisms for managing water between the U.S. and Canada, and the U.S. and Mexico, and more.

In a small sign of the times, our tables were all served with commercial bottled water despite the fact that Park City has wonderful Utah tap water that originates in the snow of the surrounding mountains. Maybe the Governors should take a lesson from the Mayors (led by, among others, former Mayor Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City, Utah), who have taken a pretty strong stand against bottled water use. While this meeting showed our leaders are taking many steps in the right direction, we still have a long way to go before we’re properly managing our water.
Personally, I think municipal authorities, especially out here in the desert, should be urged to creat regulation for "bulk" bottle-water sellers (Costco, Wal-Mart/Sams, et al) requiring the retailers to make provision to receive and recycle their empties.

Also, the archetypal "British manor lawn" has gotta go!


Ruth said...

Deposits on containers would be a good idea for drinks in general, and those green lawns are looking more inappropriate daily.

One Fly said...

Bottom line -it will not be that long before the water runs out.

here they have their sights on the Yampa one of the last free flowing rivers.