Drought has gripped the Southeastern US and plays a part in wildfires, like those raging in California. Some of these drought issues are naturally occurring, and many fear that drought patterns show the effects by global warming. The American Southwest always struggles with water conservation and reallocation issues. Here is a look at some solutions.
I was raised in the Desert Southwest and have been in this part of the country for more than forty years. In that time I have listened to a lot of what the experts have had to say on the subjects of Drought, Water Management, Population Growth, Global Warming, Desalination and the effects all of it has had on the economy and environment. After all the study I devoted to the problems it was not hard to define a solution. Before I go into all that allow me to bring a little clarity to the issues.
I live in the city of Las Vegas Clark County Nevada and what is one of the driest parts of the nation. Now I am not trying to say that what the folks in charge of water issues here are wrong. Its just not enough. The same is true all across the region. All they have done so far has just managed to stave off an impending crises. Good work never the less folks. On the other hand, that is all they could do and it has not even begun to address the problems created by their predecessors.
Piping Water from the Northern Counties.
Clark County plans to pump water out of the states northern counties to boost reserves in Clark.On the surface of it this may seem to be a good idea and for reasons they may not have considered it actually is. But only if the infrastructure will work as well to provide water to the northern counties as it will to pump water into one southern county. Taking water from one region that shares the same problems is simply putting off the problem. When population catches up then you have the same problem in a different place.
The Colorado Seven State Compact
Nevada is probably the best example of the way the entire region deals with water issues. Land locked and dependent upon the water resources that are either within the county or as allotted by the Seven State Compact our resources are extremely limited. Now the way the Compact works Nevada is allotted 300.000 acre feet of water per year. An acre foot is enough water for a family of four for one year. The Compact was penned way back in the 1920's when Nevada had all of 30 thousand residents. With the last census Clark County showed a population of 1,850.000 Residents. Fortunately the Seven State Compact allows the states to share water allotments.
Conservation and the Southern Nevada Water Authority
For all the water resources listed in the SNWA's "Portfolio of Water Resources" its still not enough to keep Clarks population clean and hydrated so the SNWA has gone on a program of conservation that is a role model for an entire nation. The effort includes such things as water Reclamation and Water Banking. They even have a program that subsidies the home owner so he can change his yard from grass an trees to desert landscaping. Add to this the water saving devices in the home and the average Nevadan has brought his water use down to just 22 gallons a day. We do conservation very well.
Water Reclamation and Banking
The entire region is one very large closed system. Its designed to not only reclaim water used in the home, business and by tourism but runoff as well. It all goes through the same process and ends up either in an underground aquifer or in a reservoir.Not much is allowed to reach sea water. For all that we still do not have enough water.
What is probably the worst idea for the procurement of a fresh water resource man has ever had. We definitely need to give the folks at PG&E something better to do with their time. According to the California Coastal Commission's Website the facts are as follows. (Keep in mind that they have more of these plants planned for the future).
Desalination plants depending on size and type (Reverse Osmosis or Steam Filtered) can have an operating cost between $1,000.oo and $2,200. per acre foot and produces between 15% and 50% "Brine" per acre foot. Now for those of you who do not know what "Brine" is, Let me give you the short list. If it starts with the word "Sodium" or has any version of the word Chloride or Chlorine in it it will be found in Brine. Also Ammonia and a variety of metals.Copper, Lead and Zinc. Not to mention Iridium.
After separating all that from fresh water they dump the Brine back into the same part of the ocean the took it out of. Ever wounder way some hapless Humpback washes up on a beach of the Pacific but never on the Atlantic. Desalination is the most expensive, most polluting and least effective way to provide water to an end user.
In 1928 the Seven state Compact was signed by the governors of Wyoming, Colorado,Utah,Arizona,New Mexico,California, and Nevada. At the time Nevada had just 30.00 residents. Now we have most of 3,000.000. Nevada has over a period of the last 100 years shown an alarming trend towards doubling her population every other decade or so. If the trend continues we should be up around 15 million by 2040. If no major changes occur in the SNWA's water portfolio we will only have enough water for about half that.
Ah the land of plenty. For now at least.But only because the Midwest is more than capable of feeding this great nation of ours. Pity not the poor farmer though. Between Federal farm subsidies and the needs of Southern California's Inland Empire to by all the water it can find the farmers have managed to keep theyer farms. The same can not be said for migrant farm labor and all the rest of the of the people that support the agriculture industry in the southwest.
From the Colorado River Delta to the Salton Sea. From the Owens River Valley to Walker Lake in Nevada. Either man made,(Mostly) or Brought on by drought the Southwest has a lot of messes that will never be dealt with unless we find a lot more water.
Stickney Illinois an open system.
For all the problems we face her in the Southwest with this ongoing drought some part of this country actually have a problem with to to much water. Stickney Illinois is just such a place. Stickney is home to the worlds largest waste management plant. It sits on a 6.5 acre parcel just south of Chicago and north of Interstate 80. Water from the Chicago's TARP sewage system flows through Stickney and seven other waste management plant and the into the calumet River. From the Calumet it flows into the Des Plaines and from there into the Mississippi.It finally ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. More water flows through Stickney in ten Days than flows through the Colorado in a year. What a waste.
Stickney has one major malfunction. It is plagued by 1920's technology. Illinois has big problems with the Federal division of the EPA. They need help and soon.
The Seven State Compact needs to be expanded to ten states. Include Illinois,Iowa and Nebraska. This will allow the political and economical strength needed to make it happen. Bring Stickney up to Y2K standards while at the same time we need to build an aqueduct/pipeline that runs along Interstate 80 for the Colorado Head Waters in Colorado and the Green River Gorge in Wyoming. This would allow the Colorado to be used as the distribution it is already designed to be.
This plan creates a real win all the way across the board. With the revenue created by the states that need the water Illinois could address the problems she has. With an abundant water supply the Southwest can grow at whatever pace and have no fear of shortages. We can put an end to Desalination and restore the Owens River Valley to her former condition. No more drought.