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Peak water is here and unlike peak oil, there is no substitution for water. But like peak oil the low-hanging fruit of our fresh water supply has been picked and what is left requires costly environmental and financial impacts to extract. Peak water is about reaching physical, economic, and environmental limits on meeting human demands for water and the subsequent decline of water availability and use. There is a vast amount of water on the planet but sustainably managed water is becoming scarce.

Today some 18 countries, containing half the world’s people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers—China, India, and the United States—and several other populous countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Mexico.

Dr. Peter Gleick is a world-class expert in climate and hydrology, a winner of the MacArthur Genius Award and co-founder of The Pacific Institute. His expertise is in water and climate and above he talks about the challenges we face as the effects of climate change influence the water available for our current needs in energy, agriculture and municipal use.

The Pacific Institute has done research into more efficient use of our planet's water including a major study into desalination of sea water. The results show that the environmental impacts of desalination may at this time exclude its use as the silver bullet to our freshwater needs. And the economic costs are prohibited; as production of desalinated water costs 2.1 times more than fresh groundwater and 70 percent more than surface water.

Please read below the fold for more on the state of water.

The effects of climate change are already happening as evidenced by the extreme weather including floods and droughts which we have experienced recently. Currently, California is experiencing exceptionally dry weather which is leaving much of the state shockingly bone dry.

Nearly 90 percent of the state is suffering from severe or extreme drought. A statewide survey shows the current snowpack hovering below 20 percent of the average for this time of year. The AP is reporting that if the current trend holds, state water managers will only be able to deliver 5 percent of the water needed for more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of farmland.
California and the Midwest are considered to be America's "bread basket." The impact of the drought on California's farmland may be devastating and is a harbinger of more to come as the effects of climate change become more frequent. Clearly, we must find a more efficient use of our limited water if we are to feed our population in the future.

In Frances Moore Lappes' revision of her iconic book Diet for a Small Planet she states that "50% of all the water used in the U.S. goes to livestock production." This gives us an immediate way to reduce water use by simply reducing meat consumption. Indeed, it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat, while growing 1 pound of wheat only requires 25 gallons.

Due to climate change the world has quietly transitioned into a situation where water, not land, has emerged as the principal constraint on expanding food supplies. As water tables fall and as wells go dry, world food prices are rising creating conflict. Is our species up to the challenge of preserving our future? To quote climate scientist Michael E. Mann "It is only through a massive, collective effort that we will turn this ship around, but we'll need all hands on deck".

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wait until some yahoo climate denier decides (17+ / 0-)

    that peak water can be solved by collecting all the melting glacier waters. Ugh. They're really that stupid, they see magical or ridiculous things and say, "See?! No problem!"

    On the other hand peak water will have a way of self correcting. At some point the water will be gone and unlike not driving, etc. not drinking will start killing people. And that, millions if not billions dying, is the actual "solution" the deniers are pushing for whether they know it or not.

    There are lies, damn lies, and statistics but they all pale in comparison to conservative talking points.

    by ontheleftcoast on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:06:50 PM PST

    •  Well, yeah, you can just tow the glaciers (10+ / 0-)

      to the places that need the fresh water!

      I think I first read that idea in the 1970's.

    •  Not enough to go around (16+ / 0-)

      In the early 70's Lima, Ohio contracted for an engineering section in its growth plan to a professor at Ohio State.  He returned after having done his work, and said to the Lima City Council, "I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that sewage treatment technology is now so good that we can treat ordinary municipal sewage so that we can drink it.  The bad news is that if Lima grows as much as it expects to, there won't be enough sewage to go around."  And indeed, I am afraid that I will live to see the day that prophetic joke will become real for some American city.  Which one will be first?

      •  people won't drink it (5+ / 0-)

        even though the tech yields water "cleaner" than tap water. I think it's Orange County that does it right now and they just shove it into the barrier wells that 'sorta but don't actually' hold back the Pacific Ocean. Nobody will drink it straight from the treatment plant but they will pump it out of the ground after it's been soiled a bit.

        •  Same thing is happening in a west Texas town (8+ / 0-)

          Heard the story on APM's business show. Can't recall the name but they've got a top-end water purification plant on their sewage and despite the normal well water tasting of sulfur people won't drink the much better treated water. Many people are not going to have a choice on whether they drink treated sewage water, it'll be one of the few sources of clean water available.

          There are lies, damn lies, and statistics but they all pale in comparison to conservative talking points.

          by ontheleftcoast on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:27:44 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Maybe so (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          justintime, kalihikane

          How do you see the alternatives?  It's funny because it was unexpected and it revealed an ironic truth.  Looking to the future, and all those rapidly growing cities outstripping their water supplies, that joke gets to be a real challenge.  What is the alternative?  Who's going to pay for it?  How much are the consumers willing to pay to avoid what is just gross, not unsafe.  How much are they going to want the rest of us to pay to avoid that gross choice for them?  I'm cynical enough to believe it will never be called by its right name, but I'm not so sure that it will never be done.

          •  Can you imagine the cross-border challanges ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ...between the haves and have-nots over the states bordering the Great Lakes?  States like California, Texas, Nevada, etc., could be in for significant strife over water. Probably have to pipe it down from through our good neighbors up north.  I keep thinking of that old saying...what goes around comes around. We need to wake up fast or things could get real ugly in the next generation.

            Our nations quality of life is based on the rightousness of its people.

            by kalihikane on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 09:09:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Rio Grande (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              You don't have to imagine...

              •  I'll call your RioGrande and raise you ... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                ...a Colorado.

                Our nations quality of life is based on the rightousness of its people.

                by kalihikane on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 10:49:39 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'll see your river and raise you a sea (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  kalihikane, luerwulf
                  Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometres (26,300 sq mi), the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into four lakes – the North Aral Sea, the eastern and western basins of the once far larger South Aral Sea, and one smaller lake between the North and South Aral Seas. By 2009, the southeastern lake had disappeared and the southwestern lake had retreated to a thin strip at the extreme west of the former southern sea. The maximum depth of the North Aral Sea is 42 m (138 ft) (as of 2008).

                  The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters." The region's once prosperous fishing industry has been essentially destroyed, bringing unemployment and economic hardship. The Aral Sea region is also heavily polluted, with consequent serious public health problems. The retreat of the sea has reportedly also caused local climate change, with summers becoming hotter and drier, and winters colder and longer.

                  There are lies, damn lies, and statistics but they all pale in comparison to conservative talking points.

                  by ontheleftcoast on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 11:35:54 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I knew it was in trouble but what you... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    ...describe is way beyond trouble. However, it isn't a surprise to me having some direct knowledge of how incredibly bad the old and present heavy handed gov't have ruled Russia.  Many people I meant are still cautious how they socialize and publicly talk about the gov't. The everyday people are wonderful and resilient. Hope they can survive Putin.

                    Our nations quality of life is based on the rightousness of its people.

                    by kalihikane on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 02:31:11 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

        •  Always find that sort of thing amusing (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          METAL TREK, Matt Z, salmo, ontheleftcoast

          Those same people who refuse to drink treated sewer water have no problem drinking water that's got piss and shit and jizz and blood and who knows what else from thousands of different species in it, including humans. To say nothing of all the lovely bacteria living in that water. They also swim in it, every time they go to the beach, or to a lake or river.

          I for one look forward to the day when we have water reclamation like they had on BSG. That was awesome, nearly 100% reclamation.

          First they came for the farm workers, and I said nothing.

          by Hannibal on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 08:01:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  In San Diego once the project was labeled (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplify, unclebucky, salmo

          "Toilet to Tap," is was toast.

      •  there won't be enough sewage to go around. (0+ / 0-)

        We could always tap Chris Christie to cover any shortfall.

    •  Fossil water like fossil fuel is NOT sustainable. (0+ / 0-)

      Please vote "no" on Amendment No. 2615 to Senate Bill 1845.

      We need to switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy AND capture and store LOTS OF CARBON to save our farms from global warming.  We also need to buy all fossil fuel displaced by renewable energy or anything else at the same time and price  it would have been bought with business as usual to make the switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy politically feasible.

      I recommend user fees on energy in general to raise the extra money needed to buy both renewable energy equipment and fossil fuel reserves as mineral rights at the same time.   With coefficient of demand for energy at -0.37, maximum total consumer spending rate for such user fees should be hit at 85% higher price for energy than now.  It needs to be phased in 10% increase for 8 years followed by 5% increase in 9th year.  Prohibitive tariff effect should cause a 31.45% decline in physical quantity demanded at 85% price increase.  Total consumer spending at that point should be 126.8175% of base spending.  Historically retail price of electricity is split as follows: 50% for transmission and distribution, 25% for fuel, 20% interest and depreciation on generating equipment, 5% to maintain, manage and operate generators.  Both buying fossil fuel displaced and depreciation plus interest on generators at the same time should cause costs to be 125% of costs now.

    •  Actually, the reality is... (0+ / 0-)

      There is no real water shortage, just a distribution inequity of nature, added to by humanity.

      Why, if we criss-crossed the nation with water pipes like some want us to do with oil pipes, we'd have quite enough water.

      Of course, those pipelines would be multiple pipes, yards across, the pumps would use more energy than the entire nation uses now.

      But, in theory, it's possible.

      Of course, it'd' be simpler, cheaper, more efficient and far more sustainable to just be conservative in our water usage.

      •  That's bull and you know it (0+ / 0-)

        You can't magically transport that much water from wet to dry regions. Never mind the power costs which you mention what about the environmental impact? If the Cascade rain forest lost 80% of its water to pump it to Texas what would happen to the rivers and ecosystem in the area.

        Mankind is not the only thing on the planet, we can't demand that all the water be ours to use. We're running out of usable water. Period. No amount of spin can deny that.

        There are lies, damn lies, and statistics but they all pale in comparison to conservative talking points.

        by ontheleftcoast on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 11:47:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, the reality is... (0+ / 0-)

        The water wouldn't need to flow 24/7/365. It could be driven by spaced impellers driven from storage pod to storage pod powered by solar panels located above each impeller system.  Would it be costly?  In the beginning, absolutely.  So was the phone system.  If the system was well designed and materials not skimped on, the cost over time would certainly drop - as it does with any nascent technology.  Forty years ago you'd have been laughed out of the room if you'd claimed that everybody would have multiple computers which you could use anywhere.  Almost every technical problem has both sensible and not so sensible solutions.  

        Just because it doesn't exist yet is no reason to jump to the conclusion that it'll never exist.

  •  Well... Just when I thought the news (13+ / 0-)

    couldn't get any better... (!)

    Peak water will make peak oil small by comparison.  Peak oil isn'g getting much traction, anyway, from what I can see.

    It's true that CA is in drought.

    This is a dilemma.  CA needs its agribusiness.

    The next big poliical dog fight?

    "There's always room for cello." Yo Yo Ma

    by ceebee7 on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:06:56 PM PST

  •  ya, good luck in getting THIS message out. nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bnasley, VL Baker

    "There's always room for cello." Yo Yo Ma

    by ceebee7 on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:08:13 PM PST

  •  Poppy Bush and his Carlyle investment team (16+ / 0-)

    ...bought up all the land in Paraguay surrounding the world's largest aquifer not being sucked up by a large farm-industrialized nation.

    Just seemed appropriate to mention. It never hurts being a former CIA director. Never. Just ask Vlad.

    "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

    by DaddyO on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:08:54 PM PST

    •  I read somewhere just the other day (13+ / 0-)

      that in 50 years all the fresh water rights in the world will have been sold, and even the most poverty-stricken populations will be forced to pay some rich corporation or group of investors for access to fresh water - both treated and untreated fresh water.  I wish I could remember where I read it.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:18:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wait until they get the "rights" to oxygen. (4+ / 0-)

        You can't make this stuff up.

        by David54 on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:05:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  They're already doing this (10+ / 0-)

        That's why Bolivia elected a Maoist for its first indigenous President, Morales. A few years ago, the International Monetary Fund put some Halliburton-type vampire corporation in charge of as many Third World countries' water supplies as possible, in order to 'develop' their water supply. The documentary "Even The Rain"'s title references the fact that even the rain is something you have to pay these 'developers' for. They develop them, then charge more money than the peasants can pay, and they die, but the survivors make them all rich, and everybody's happy!

        I may be guilty of snark, but I do NOT exaggerate the situation.

        "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

        by DaddyO on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:40:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Let them "develop" (6+ / 0-)

          water supplies, then nationalize the bastards.
          It's time we started nationalizing vital industries here in the USA too, starting with the oil industry.
          I suppose there are many here that won't agree with me, but all water supplies and distribution should be administered by the federal government according to need.
          Put it all in the hands of a federal agency, ran by real water experts, and take it away from the petty state governors and legislatures who use this life giving fluid as political capital.

          Severely Socialist 47283

          by ichibon on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 08:00:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I strongly disagree. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            all water supplies and distribution should be administered by the federal government according to need.
            So the people of the Great Lakes states should be forced to watch the water in their lakes go to dry states like Arizona and Colorado?

            No thank you. I agree that water distribution should be run by government and maybe even federal government, but I think that the operating principle should be that groundwater should never leave its own watershed.

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 05:02:10 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I believe we, as a united (0+ / 0-)

              country, should share equally in our resources, including water.
              Having clean water to drink, should not be dependent on where you live, it should be a right for all, and the only way I see that happening, is to build elaborate water transfer systems that distribute water from the areas where there is an overabundance, to the dryer parts of the country.
              Of course I think there should be strong rules for using this water: For instance, watering lawns should be illegal everywhere, if you want to live in the desert, then live in the desert, don't waste precious water to grow green lawns in the desert, such as people are doing in places in the arid southwest.
              I live in western Oregon, where we normally get lots of rain, but even here I refuse to waste water on my lawn, if it dies, it dies.

              Severely Socialist 47283

              by ichibon on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 12:00:52 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Indeed... altho, if it "dies," it'll come back. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I grew up in Missouri.  We had 1 3/4 acres of yard, all grass.  No one watered their lawns.  In the fall it turned brown, in the spring it turned green.

                Americans have to re-acquaint themselves with seasons, especially those who live in the desert, like Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc.  Also metro areas who've become accustomed to eating Californian and Central and South American produce year round.  Good luck fighting property developer lobbies on this one... but it can (and must) be done.

                This huge issue conflates with transportation/importation of veggies so Safeway, et al. can sell out of season fruit and veggies year round.  Most of the price for this luxury goes to fossile fuels to put gas in large trucks.

                U.S. farm subsidies should be limited to small, "community" farms and farming, so they are not forced to sell out to agribusinesses.

                "There's always room for cello." Yo Yo Ma

                by ceebee7 on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 01:30:01 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I was living in east bay, (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  CA during the time when S. CA was lobbing for the canal from the Sacramento River. I seem to remember the lobbyists assuring the north that the water would only be used for agriculture, not to develop housing in the desert. A few years later I drove along the canal, and noted all the new housing tracts that weren't there before, all with beautiful lawns.
                  I haven't followed this new canal discussion closely, but I'm sure the same thing will happen again.
                  Water is too precious to be wasted growing lawns.
                  Great comment, and I agree with you completely.

                  Severely Socialist 47283

                  by ichibon on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 04:43:51 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

    •  It isn't just Bush, et al (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Those with foresight have been investing in water rights for centuries. I personally gathered an investor group that purchased three entire watersheds.

      "Peak water" is an appropriate title for this diary, considering that for many decades it has been said that water will be the oil of the twenty first century.

    •  I'll drink the treated sewage water (0+ / 0-)

      before I drink anything with the Bush crime family's hands on it (also since it's safer than a lot of other water sources based on what I'm reading here)

      A village can not reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.

      by METAL TREK on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 10:05:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You nailed it. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VL Baker, bnasley
  •  Dune wisdom that speaks to our time (8+ / 0-)
    All of man's water, ultimately, belongs to his people - to his tribe.
    - Planetologist Pardot Kynes
    Water is a shared treasure. It belongs to us all.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:10:44 PM PST

    •  The key question: Who is "us all"? (8+ / 0-)

      What's the circumference of that "all"?

      Do the waters of Lake Michigan belong to "us all," so that when, say, Arizona thirsts for water, they have a claim on those waters?

      Or do they belong to the people of the states surrounding the lake, giving the people of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin the right to decide what is done with those waters—and to refuse it to Arizona?

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:27:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Current law says that all the states (7+ / 0-)

        plus the Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes (the Great Lakes Compact) have exclusive control of the Great Lakes.

        But what Congress grants, the Kochs can take away (if they buy enough congresskritters).

      •  us all. (0+ / 0-)

        You can't make this stuff up.

        by David54 on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:06:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Good point, but water is an underground (0+ / 0-)

        as well as above ground natural resource.  But so is coal in Appalachia and the South, iron ore in the "rust belt" (which includes to an extent "Great Lake" states), other resources, including oil in Pennsylvania, Texas, Oklahoma, California...  All of them have been privatized via congressional action.  Water hasn't been privatized because it is so basic but also because there's always been enough, one way or another (see "Chinatown" reference, above).

        So does a small farmer have the right to the water he gets from drilling a well on his own property?  

        I'm sure there are plenty of other political sides to this... but it WILL become an issue.  I think ultimately the resources of America will need to become nationalized... and certainly  SCRUTINIZED and legislated upon.  Private interests have historically been granted rights to possession with little or no public acquisence or even knowledge (see airwaves (!!!!!)).  Although the forests are nationalized and the US Forest Service doesn't have a very good record in sustaining the public's interest in preserving forest lands.

        "There's always room for cello." Yo Yo Ma

        by ceebee7 on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 01:43:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Given the absolute unadulterated greed (5+ / 0-)

      of most corporations/super wealthy, water and even air will become a commodity to be sold to the remaining masses.  

      Climate change and lack of water becomes an almost
      intractable problem when dealing with the mindset of today's conservatives.  Propaganda mills are churning out dis-information that is eagerly consumed by those who treat ignorance as a virtue.  

      I'm deeply concerned, not only for our own country, but for humanity as a whole.  

      "It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak." President Barack Obama 3/24/09

      by sfcouple on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:12:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I live in South Texas, which has a history of (13+ / 0-)

    drought.  South Texas has scattered aquifers, but these water sources have enough water only to sustain human and animal life.  The land itself is not suitable for growing food crops, and it takes hundreds of thousands of acres - and acre-feet of water to feed the livestock on the enormous ranches in the region.  Unfortunately, millions of gallons of fresh water are currently being used for fracking to extract oil and gas from the area.

    "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

    by SueDe on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:11:52 PM PST

  •  Be afraid... (24+ / 0-)

    the super-wealthy are starting to view water as an extremely valuable investment commodity.

    In addition to private investments, clients may want to consider public global and domestic companies.
    Water-focused equities have generated a 16.9% return annually over the last 20 years, compared with a 6.6% return for the S&P 500, with slightly less volatility, according to data collected by Water Asset Management.

    Governments have traditionally been responsible for water delivery, but, increasingly, private companies have been taking over this function. The three major companies that deliver water on a for-profit basis are French companies Suez Environnement and Veolia Environnement and U.K. company Thames Water. “The large, incessant capital expenditures required to maintain water systems are encouraging a trend from municipal ownership to privatization and consolidation, creating more investable opportunities,” according to Summit’s research.

    Somehow, I don't think the 1%'s "investable opportunities" usually turn out well for the other 99% of us.
  •  Isn't big business and their GOP stooges next plan (0+ / 0-)

    to drain the Great lakes for fun and profit? The Koch Brothers to each other: "We've got a plan!" And their grandchildren can always build private desalinization plants (even more money to be made there selling $30 bottles to the masses).

  •  This is _the_ issue for the 21st century. (9+ / 0-)

    If people realized about what is happening to water, climate denial would fizzle.

    "Broccoli could take down a government. Broccoli is revolutionary." --Kris Carr

    by rb137 on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:19:23 PM PST

  •  I still think that a series of football field... (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, Krotor, k9disc, ichibon, justintime, ypochris

    size filters with 6-8 foot diameter pipelines could help replenish our nations depleting aquifiers if placed along flood zones close to are largest rivers.  It may take over a hundred of them but if they work, it would be worth it.

    We currently waste tens if not hundreds of billions of gallons of flood water every year out to sea.  Why couldn't this water be filtered and reintroduced directly into the aquifiers?  It would be a major infastructure project no doubt but channeling the flood waters from areas with excess water to areas with drought seems to make sense.

    "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

    by Buckeye Nut Schell on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:22:13 PM PST

    •  too many organics, no sunlight (5+ / 0-)

      far better to put perma-culture features in,
      capture all that, load the soil with moisture.

    •  conservtion is the solution (6+ / 0-)

      In Houston most new residential structures must now be built 5% more energy efficient.  This is common sense regulation like indoor plumbing.

      What we need to do as a nation is apply the same rules to water usage.  Xeriscaping should be mandatory.  Built in water collection for watering landscape should be mandatory for all building with landscaping. This is the kind of thing that conservatives hate because for some reason all people have a right, granted from the almighty, to a garden and all they water they want.

      When I was a kid there was a company called Chemlawn that would saturate the neighborhood with toxins and make monoculture lawns look good.  Out family lawn would be made fun of because we had all sorts of things growing in it, trees to shade the house and lawn, and in general no chemical additives. , and not much water needed.  Chemlawn appears to be gone, but water is still being wasted .

      Another funny story I head lately are regulations against farming your front yard.  In terms of water consumption, growing fruits and vegetables is far superior to simply have a water wasting lawn.  Of course we all have heard about the clothesline ban, which is another conservative talking point.  Texas is a right to dry state. California is a right to dry state.  Washington state doe not appear to be.

    •  In Fresno, CA (6+ / 0-)

      Rain water runoff from streets is piped into large sunken basins where it percolates down to the aquifer. As the rainy season tapers off and the water goes below, the basins become grassy sunken parks, soccer fields, and such for the remainder of the year.

    •  All rivers (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Buckeye Nut Schell, justintime

      in California do not run freely to the ocean. They all have dams. Or almost all. There may be one left undammed. "Wasted" water to the ocean? California put a stop to that decades ago.

      It's not actually wasted. Where do you think all that flood water ultimately comes from?

    •  That replenishment has been going on for years (8+ / 0-)

      We were already doing that in the 70's.  In Ohio (which I assume you hail from), there used to be large lagoons adjacent to the Great Miami River, worked by draglines to keep the bottoms permeable enough to allow the River water pumped in there to infiltrate groundwater.  They were to replenish the aquifers from which a lot of municipal water was being withdrawn.  I assume they are still there and still functioning.  We're finding out though, that floodwater performs a number of essential functions in rivers and estuaries.  Where dams and diversions took that out, we are now litigating, and negotiating agreements, laws, and treaties to put floodwater back.  

      As for the outflow of water from our rivers into the sea, what happens to the estuaries and the oceans when fresh water is cut off?  We don't have to speculate, look to the Colorado estuary that is no more for all practical purposes.  It isn't pretty and I think that it is no model for water management going forward.  Water flowing out rivers is not waste at all.  That's our world working as it should.  When I see those rivers, I see in my mind's eye fish spawning and fry growing.  I see seaweed and grass flats, and shrimp and crabs.  I see dolphin and manatee going about their lives, sea turtles swimming in Florida lagoons, and birds - by the thousands.  If humans can't live in a way that lets all that live too, we will exit this world shortly thereafter because like the yeast growing in beer wort, we will have consumed our sustenance and poisoned ourselves in our excreta.  Are we no better than yeast?  So far, the evidence is not reassuring.  

      •  I agree that the flood waters have a positive (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        justintime, ypochris, METAL TREK, salmo

        effect, the filters I am suggesting wouldn't stop them like a dam but rather tap into them.  If we built filters approximately the size of football fields, fifteen feet deep filled them with layers of gravel and charcoal that was replaced yearly, it could effectively filter the water (we could even use microwaves to kill of organic bacteria powered by the force of the flood waters) and the dilution of the aquifiers could help the rest.  

        The depletion of the natural aquifiers in this country (and around the world for that matter) is a serious issue that could lead to the destabilization of the entire southwest.  Even though conservation is a key element (especially commercial uses such as fracking), we have to find a way to replenish them for the future.  We are taking way more than is being replenished right now.  I do not know what the answer is.  I just know that doing something is better than doing nothing and counting on people to voluntarily limit their usage has proven to be a futile waste of time.  People (especially the corporate kind) are short sighted.  

        I once calculated that a six foot diameter pipe over a 7 day flood could carry enough water to an aquifier to equal 1% of the annual usage based on data I found available on the internet.  That means 100 filters could feasibly stop the depletion of the nation's aquifiers if there were 7 days of flooding across all of the filters per year.  This wouldn't take ALL of the flood water away by any means but it could still slow if not reverse the depletion of the aquifiers.  

        Adaquately filtering the water would, of course, be a top concern and creating one hundred pipelines with a 6' diameter pipe would be a infastructure challenge of historic proportions but I believe it is feasible.  Look at what the Romans did with the aquaducts.  It has to be a priority of this nation to find a solution now rather than later because it is not going to fix itself.

        "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

        by Buckeye Nut Schell on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:56:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Water allowed to flow to the sea is not wasted (3+ / 0-)

          I was going to say it but Salmo said it for me.

          However, your idea is not entirely without merit. If the water must be taken, the least harmful time to do so is during floods. And your elaborate purification schemes are unnecessary - water from a cesspool is pure enough to drink after it has flowed through a hundred feet of sand. And the sand doesn't need to be, and should not be, replaced, as the microbial action in the first fraction of an inch does the most.

          Besides, football-sized seepage ponds are insufficient - many thousands of acre-feet are needed. But simply diverting the floodwaters and allowing it to spread across thousands of acres of pasture or other non-crop land is sufficient.

          The problem with your suggestion is primarily economic. No one wants to pay for a six foot pipeline that is used once a year when a six inch pipeline flowing all year can carry the same amount of water. Or pay for all the associated diversion structures. Plus, the land tends to be saturated near to a flooding river (otherwise the river could just be allowed to overflow its banks), so the distance the water must be carried to do any good is significant, meaning the cost is staggering.

          In some areas, Florida being a notable example, large landowners are paid to allow floodwaters onto their land for aquifer recharge, which is essentially what you are proposing. However, in most areas the water is far from the need, and it is considered too costly to use what is, actually, a good suggestion that I myself have proposed to my local water management district to preserve base flows in our local streams. As an alternative to reservoirs, what could be cheaper than aquifer storage? But how do you bill the cost to the users of the aquifer?

          Some day such solutions will become commonplace, at great cost to the downstream ecosystems. But we don't just want water - we want cheap water. And this solution is not cheap.

    •  In many locations already being done (6+ / 0-)

      but not in the way you envision. Storm water is collected where it falls and runs off, and is collected in infiltration galleries and allowed to seep into and recharge local aquifers.

      Once the runoff arrives at large rivers, the adjacent soils / aquifers are likely already saturated.

      Problems: water quality, downstream water rights.

  •  "All hands on deck" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat, bnasley, sfcouple

    Means that the ship will eventually sink, because there's no way we'll get anywhere near the collective effort that's stated to be required in our lifetimes.

    Between the fact-denying crowd, and the more-profit-now crowd, and the bought-Congress crowd, progress just ain't gonna happen.

  •  think how much water we could save (8+ / 0-)

    if people living in places like california, nevada and arizona would replace their lawns with more efficient species.

    hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

    by alguien on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:27:50 PM PST

  •  Gulp! NOT what I wanted to see at the top of dKos! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VL Baker

    Tough discussion...

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:30:51 PM PST

  •  fracking, the 7th horseman of peak water apocolyps (13+ / 0-)

    Each fracking well uses between 2-5 million gallons of water, and these are contaminated and injected into the ground where it further contaminates sources of ground water. No effort is made to look into the future when we might need to drink this ground water.  Hundreds of thousands of these wells are planned for the watershed that provides for 15 million people.

    To quote clean water action:

    Each well uses between two and five million gallons of locally-sourced freshwater which will be permanently contaminated by ground contaminants and toxic chemicals contained in the fracking fluid.clean water actions web site
    I realize that some may see the above source as biased, but I've seen enough that I think they are closer to the truth than  other sources.
  •  Humans survive but a very few days w/o water. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David54, Elizabeth 44, justintime

    That fact has been, and will be a true constant fact.  Time we pay attention!

    Only Punxsutawney Phil can save us now.

    by jwinIL14 on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:44:20 PM PST

  •  Peak Oil (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justintime, ceebee7

    The assumption with peak Oil is that it wouldn't be possible to develop an economically feasible method of extracting oil and gas from shale.  Clearly, that obstacle was overcome with the massive expansion of natural gas and oil production.

    It would not surprise me in the least if companies found ways to reduce the cost making seawater fit for consumption.  Put that large a profit opportunity out there and the research will come.

    As for the comment that shale production will peak in a decade that is not what I have been reading.  The main limitation upon continued massive expansion of fracking is the low cost of natural gas because expanded supply.

  •  T&R'd, bookmarked for community edu. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VL Baker, justintime

    Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings. —Nelson Mandela

    by kaliope on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:49:36 PM PST

  •  Yup (5+ / 0-)

    By all means, let's continue to increase population. As fast and as much as possible.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:52:00 PM PST

  •  Peak oil, peak water, peak breathable air,... (5+ / 0-)

    peak arable land, peak food.  Of these peak oil is the lesser problem because without the last four or any one of them, we are dead.


  •  What's a few millions and millions and millons of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VL Baker

    fracked up water among friends?

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:58:23 PM PST

  •  The gop can drink my piss. For free. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Kong, METAL TREK

    That's the kind of guy I am.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:00:56 PM PST

  •  I was actually waiting for this diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VL Baker, justintime

    This is going to be a big issue in social forecasting.

    There are also machines that can condense water out of the air,
    such as this one:

    But this will not set aside the need for smarter water usage and conservation.

    •  You mean air conditioners (0+ / 0-)
      There are also machines that can condense water out of the air,
      such as this one:
      ...which is all that this machine is- It's using evaporative cooling of a coil to use as a condenser. Just like an AC, except we're not hanging onto and recirculating the chilled air.

      Power becomes an issue very quickly. Also, efficiency goes through the floor as ambient humidity drops.

  •  "there is no substitution for water" (0+ / 0-)

    How about the ocean?  Desalination?  It will get better and cheaper.

  •  California has enough water for fracking! (0+ / 0-)

    Never mind agribusiness -- there is oil down there underground!

  •  Carbon free, wave powered water production (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alex Budarin, justintime

    New technologies could supply water to coastal populations and lots of gardens, which can be very water-efficient.

    Here's one. It's carbon free, wave-powered and will supply half of Perth's drinking water: Wave-powered desalination

    60% of the world's population lives within 60 km of the ocean, well within reach of these units if they prove out.

    In the face of these situations technology is a major source of hope for me.

    •  Thanks for posting that! (0+ / 0-)

      I hadn't heard of this technology.  It's worth investigating.

      Cool link, too.

    •  Energy equals money (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And the same wave power that desalinates water and pumps it to shore could be generating electricity. In other words, the cost  (equals energy required) of desalinating the water is the essentially the same whether you generate the energy on site with wave power or get the electricity elsewhere.

      To put it another way, wave energy may well be the "wave" of the future, but the fact that this energy is being used for desalinization is no big deal. The big deal will be if they have discovered an economical way to harvest energy from the ocean. That would be more than just a game changer; it could be the key to the survival of the human race.

  •  It's reality here and now in Colorado (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annominous, justintime

    The vast High Plains Acquifer is pumped out in those same counties that wanted to cede from Colorado.
    Ranches are shutting down.
    It's actually tragic.
    the water was mined out.

    If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen.

    by EZ writer on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:37:36 PM PST

    •  Coming From Western Washington, I was Amazed... (0+ / 0-) the difference in how tight the water resource was in Eastern Colorado 30 years ago.  

      Went for a drive one hot summer day looking for a swimming hole.  The line of cars at Cherry Creek was daunting, so we looked at the map and started searching.  150 miles later, the only water we found that wasn't fenced off was on the South Platte just downstream from a sewage plant.

      For a couple form Western Washington, this was unbelievable.  We are surrounded by publicly accessible water for recreation, especially where I live now in the Southwest part of the state.  

      Peak water may hit here last, but other effects of climate change are already present.  The glaciers in our mountains have shrunk drastically in my lifetime.  We have wildfires that rage out of control for weeks.

      As humans, we are somewhat able to adapt, but the devastation being wreaked across the natural world is heartbreaking.

      "Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person." David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World

      by Delta Overdue on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 08:47:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Space water (0+ / 0-)

    You may think it crazy, but water could be the first off planet industry.  There is an unimaginable amount of water out there.

  •  One of the worst ideas ever--Las Vegas. What (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justintime, Crider, ypochris

    a profligate waste of a scarce resource!

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 08:07:24 PM PST

  •  What we need is a national effort (4+ / 0-)

    to curb our water consumption and to declare a national emergency.

    Just as we did during the Kennedy years the quest for  space exploration, we need the drive to find the solution to this need of water.  

    I understand the energy expended for desalinization and the cost, but here is an area where we must put our most brilliant minds working on a way to come up with a more feasible production.  The water is there, surely there has to be way to extract the salt in a less costly way.  

    More homeowners should be looking for ways to minimize  or get rid of their lawns and plant drought resistant plants.  A concerted effort from all Americans should be made to slow down the depletion of our water supply.

    It is not too dramatic to think that the next big war will be over water.

  •  a pound of meat v a pound of wheat (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Orcas George

    meat and wheat are nutritionally different, so they aren't equivalent in terms of life-support capability. But some notable differences:
    1. wheat is a dry food, meat has a lot of water. Cooked meat has less, but water is added to wheat to cook it, stretching it tio 2 or three times its dry weight. Meat, usually, dries out when cooked
    2. meat requires refrigeration in shipping and storage
    3. meat spoils easily and routinely carries dangerous bacteria. It has to be cooked (except in exceptional dishes). Slaughterhouses are dirty places.
    4. wheat can be sprouted into a ''super food"
    5. wheat requires beans and some seeds to attain protein and EFA completeness for human diets.  They should be factored into the weight equation. BTW, Sunflower seeds are a great source of nutrition, produce a lot, and grow in temperate and cold climates. Beans nutrify soil.
    6. meat, consumed in what is now a normal American diet, causes chronic and fatal diseases requiring medical attention and pharmaceuticals. That is costly in dollars and social terms, and painful. These drugs poison waste streams so that sewage cannot (should not) be reused for agriculture. (meat kills!), which is the natural order of things.
    7. wheat has, of course we all now know, gluten, to which a lot of folks are intolerant. IMHO this is the result of breeding wheat for bread-making and the almost universal consumption of wheat stripped of its bran and germ and bleached (so that rats won't eat it!). Love that white bread... . But there are other great grains, rice,  buckwheat, oats, and rye are all traditional in temperate and northern climates. Millet is also good, but comes from Africa(?). Quinoa is great food, but is tropical and its exploitation is upsetting traditional village cultures in SA - the big producers steal land to produce it. and blah blah, etc...

    •  All meat is not equal (0+ / 0-)

      Beef requires the highest inputs of common meats, with a vegetable protein/animal protein conversion ratio of about nineteen to one. Pigs convert at about seven to one, and can be fed all types of food waste as opposed to the grain usually used to produce beef. Chickens are something like three to one, IIRC, and eggs are the least wasteful animal protein of all, with a conversion ratio of one and a half to one.

      Yes, a vegetarian diet is better for the environment, but meat eaters can substantially reduce their negative effect by eliminating beef. Or, far better, they can actually have a more positive effect than even switching to a vegetarian diet, by hunting destructive feral animals such as wild pigs, or even deer in areas where predator elimination has led to overpopulation, and eating that instead of farmed products.

      •  no argument (0+ / 0-)

        getting everybody veggie will take a long time if it is possible. Eggs don't bother me much if the chickens aren't tortured and are fed a natural diet. The same for dairy, although I find it very congestive. In mountainous and arid terrains, people often don't have much choice. And I suspect that humans are well adapted to a hunter-gatherer diet, but not to mixing that with an agrarian and synthetic food diet at random.

        I point my finger at capitalism and the current ethos of profit at any social or environmental cost. Most people are  so distanced from our natural planetary/evolutionary roots they're almost lost in time.

  •  with the ignorance (0+ / 0-)

    and stupidity of humanity and the deniers keeping anyone from dealing with climate change desalination may be the only way to deal with the inevitable rising of the oceans.

    this could help mitigate the eventual water shortage because of more ignorance on the part of humans and not dealing with the overpopulation we have and its affect on resources.

    we either protect our planet and safeguard its resources or earth will expel us as it should, the choice is ours and ours alone.

  •  Peak oil still a problem, so is peak fish (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    BTW, peak oil never really was transcended by the new finds, despite the blandishments of the usual suspects. New HC deposits are more expensive to get at, of uncertain long-term viability, have side effects etc. If PO really wasn't still an issue then oil would still be in the 40-50$/bbl range.

    Also, we are fishing out the oceans. Peak fish is a big problem too, and many people around the World depend on fish.

    •  And peak antibiotics (0+ / 0-)

      Although that may solve some of the problem...

      Extremely scary frontline piece on drug resistant germs.   Turns out no company I the us is working on the problem, not enough profit since antibiotics are not a lifetime subscription.

  •  This has long been a concern of mine (0+ / 0-)

    Lack of fresh water is going to bcome a much greater source of instability and war in the coming decades.  As a Canadian, I am keenly aware of this since Canada has large amounts of freshwater that is constantly under threat of being over-exploited by foreign sources and certain governments in power who would be more than happy to sell off that resource in an irresponsible way.

    Even without climate change, the fresh water usage would be a gigantic, looming problem.

    Large-scale desalination is likely the future for our water supply, but that requires a LOT of energy (or else a lot of time if you are relying more on evaporation and sunlight).  We are going to have to find more ways of getting large amounts of cheap energy to make this happen.  It actually reminds me of the clean-up of CO2 from the atmosphere: it can be done if you have enough energy, but you would need a massive amount and of course it would need to be non-fossil-fuel energy.

    Basically, we need a huge breakthrough in energy production to help fix a lot of our problems.  But instead what is happening?  We are cutting research funding and cutting things like manned space flight that would inspire a future generation of scientists and engineers who would help discover some of the solutions to these problems.  So maddeningly short-sighted.

  •  The Pacific Institute (0+ / 0-)

    I saw the video & yes he makes sense but then I look at some of the board of directors of this organization and its not so comforting with it showing a former Senior Vice President of Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc as well as a former senior vice president at Bank of America.

  •  Some pathogens affect host behavior adversely; (0+ / 0-)

    example, rabies.  If an alien civilization wanted to wipe out humans and colonize Earth themselves, they might choose to infect us with viruses that cause self-destructive choices of behavior to change the environment and kill us off.  Then their superior technology could fix the climate so that they would be comfortable in our place.

    The longer I watch the privately-smart yet collectively-insane behavior of humans, particularly in the US, but also in the Mideast (where fighting is consuming resources and preventing co-operation to conserve them; both national fighting and terrorism), the more I wonder if we have been under attack by an alien pathogen designed to make enough of us stupid about our world as a whole that we will kill ourselves without even being invaded.

    Either that, or we were MADE that stupid in the first place.

  •  earthships~!!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    there is (old~!) technology that is extremely efficient with power & water...
    instead of viewing this type of thing as kooky & wacky, these ideas should be part of the building codes~!!!

  •  Warming? What Warming? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Just because last year was the driest year ever recorded in Cal. with no sign of any significant rail soon, really doesn't mean that the climate is changing or that the recognizable and measurable affects of human activity means anything in terms of weather.  Somehow, the Climate Change deniers have convinced themselves that if they say there is no evidence that human activity affects climate loudly and often, the public will accept their statements as true.  Every time it snows, the deniers all get together to crow that Climate Change is a fraud which is the same as the Catholic Church's objective proof that seeing a sunset meant that the sun revolved around the earth.  The Church's refusal to admit the truth held up scientific inquiry for years; the climate deniers effects will be considerably more serious.

    The deniers accuse scientists of falsifying research to profit from research grants but if the strongest climate deniers' backgrounds are investigated, they all seem to be connected in some way to fossil fuel industries and therefore, have the most to gain by forestalling research into climate change.  Is the public really supposed to believe that a group of scientists who may split a $500.000 research grant would conspire to falsify evidence while the Koch brothers who make billions every year from their coal and gas business are motivated by pure altruism?  

  •  Population (0+ / 0-)

    If we didn't overpopulate the earth, we'd need far less resources.

  •  Grateful Newbie (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    belinda ridgewood, dconrad

    Just signed up, impressed by all here observing, thinking, sharing - such a relief, had felt so isolated.  I've been watching humanity's mad plunge toward destruction for over 70 years, and my beloved partner denies everything (objects to my interest in Daily Kos, too). Bless you for being awake, eyes open, irrepressible.  In this conversation you've touched on nearly every relevant issue of the survival sweepstakes.

     Now may I draw your attention to an ancient world-view that persists despite the profanations of immediate profit and abuse of nature, lives unadvertised in Earth's pockets. One of those is Dineh (Navajo), full of songs.

    The feet of the earth are my feet
    It is all in beauty, it is all in beauty
    The legs of the earth are my legs
    It is all in beauty, it is all in beauty
    The strength of the earth is my strength
    It is all in beauty, it is all in beauty
    The thoughts of the earth are my thoughts
    It is all in beauty, it is all in beauty
    The voice of the earth is my voice
    The feather of the earth is my feather
    All that belongs to the earth belongs to me
    All that surrounds the earth surrounds me
    I am the sacred words of the earth
    It is all in beauty, it is all in beauty

  •  Yup - so let's build that Keystone XL Pipeline ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dconrad, VL Baker

    ... and take the chance that it'll leak into the Ogalala Aquifer, so there's no longer an abundant source of clean water for the Midwestern US, because ... PROFIT FOR CANADA!!??

    OF COURSE the New Right is wrong - but that doesn't make WRONG the new RIGHT!

    by mstaggerlee on Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 07:01:54 AM PST

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