Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Welcome to the Future

"...the West’s energy boom could threaten drinking water for 1 in 12 Americans," says Climate Ark in a piece taken from the Dec. 22, 2008, edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune. In the article authors Abrahm Lustgarten and David Hasemyer, point to the everyday requirements of crop irrigation, power generation, and the ever increasing needs of domestic oil, gas, and uranium supplies.

"The river's water is hoarded the moment it trickles out of the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado and begins its 1,450-mile journey to Mexico's border," they continue. "It runs south through seven states and the Grand Canyon, delivering water to Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego. Along the way, it powers homes for 3 million people, nourishes 15 percent of the nation's crops and provides drinking water to one in 12 Americans."

"Now a rush to develop domestic oil, gas and uranium deposits along the river and its tributaries threatens its future."

"The region could contain more oil than Alaska's National Arctic Wildlife Refuge. It has the richest natural gas fields in the country. And nuclear energy, viewed as a key solution to the nation's dependence on foreign energy, could use the uranium deposits held there."

"But getting those resources would suck up vast quantities of the river's water and could pollute what is left. That's why those most concerned are water managers in places like Los Angeles and San Diego. They have the most to lose."

"The river is already so beleaguered by drought and climate change that one environmental study called it the nation's "most endangered" waterway. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography warn the river's reservoirs could dry up in 13 years."

As it is, the river diminishes to a swamp at the head of the Gulf of California. Some years it doesn't get that far.

In an oblique twist, this was forecast by Charles Bowden in his book, Killing the Hidden Waters, first published in 1977...over 30 years ago. Looking at ground water as a non-renewable resource because it was being used at a rate greater than it could be replaced or, stated differently, would take ages to re-collect in underground aquifers, he lamented its reckless and wasteful use. In 1977 he likely never guessed that surface water would suffer the same fate.

However, in a new introduction to this book written 2003, Bowden issues a stark warning:

"We can ignore these facts. We can pretend these facts do not matter. But in the end, they will slap us in the face and we will have to snap alert. And this slap may come from our kitchen faucet, or from the pump at the gas station, or from the electricity thrumming into our homes, or from the supermarket or from our local lumberyard. But it will come."

"Welcome to the future, the place that will make us face the experiences of our past.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Water and the Futures Market

A friend emailed to let me know that a gallon of bottled water in Cleveland, Ohio, was priced at $2.87/gallon at the local supermarket.

Cleveland, for God's sake...sitting adjacent to the biggest supply of available fresh water in the world.

The current price-per-gallon of bottled water at the Safeway in Cottonwood, Arizona, is $1.69!

The State of Arizona must feel secure in the thought that its water supply will never run out, deluded in Phoenix by the available water in nearby Roosevelt Reservoir and its little satellite ponds.

The fragile success of the Central Arizona Project has had it's desired effect: Lawns, gardens and golf courses are watered, there are no municipal usage restrictions, supermarket prices remain low, people turn the tap and get the expected result.

Water use in this arid region will not change until the price begins to make use uncomfortable for the casual consumer. Price has had this effect at the gas pump (Oil is currently $126/barrel -- Gasoline $3.60/gallon at the pump.) and use is down by an estimated 7% and dropping.

If oil and water respond the same to usage prices, I'll make a foolish wager:

Water, like oil, will be traded on the futures market and, similar to the current discussion about carbon emissions, water credits will be accumulated or spent by towns and regions to satisfy current needs or future requirements.

A "Sustainability Index" is already being traded on the Dow Jones Exchange.

Skeptics should make a point of reading Charles Bowden's, Killing the Hidden Waters, first published in 1977 and updated with a new Introduction in 2003. Without giving away the journey, the basic point Bowden makes is that we are using water resources faster than they can be replenished and his subhead to Introduction (2003) is, "What I Learned Watching the Wells Go Down".

Thursday, May 1, 2008

On the Road for

We traveled recently to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Saguaro National Park to get cactus flower photos for our website, It was to be an early Spring (at least compared to our northern town of Jerome, AZ) when the desert wildflowers were in bloom and, hopefully, cactus flowers, as well.

Aside from the constant
helicopter activity of the U.S. Border Patrol at Organ Pipe, our only minor ignorance was the discovery that cactus flowers bloom at different times and that the Hedgehog Cactus and Ocotillo flowers were the only cactus flowers out.

A helpful volunteer at Saguaro National Park explained to us that cacti such as Barrel Cactus set blossoms for the summer monsoons, blooming in August, while others such as Prickly Pear Cactus, set blooms for the winter rains and bloom in mid- to late April. Water in the soil, she explained, dissolves the seed coat and allows germination.

Fortunately, wildflowers such as the Mexican Goldpoppy had made their spectacular appearance and were joined by Brittle Bush along the roadside, valleys and slopes. We had hoped, however, for prickly pear and barrel cactus blooms at Organ Pipe but it didn't happen until we traveled to Saguaro National Park a couple of weeks later and still later to the Superstition Wilderness Area adjacent to Apache Junction.

Some results of this trip can be seen at

While we humans jump on a couch, bed, or floor to reproduce, the less agile flora depend on water, and very mobile insects, specialized bees, bats, and butterflies, adapting to the environment and coordinating reproduction to the most opportune time.