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.