Archive for June 2014
I got a BIG response from last month’s Blog about water. I must admit I didn’t think it was a very exciting topic but I think water is one of those things we never think about because it’s always been such an obvious and available part of our lives. I doubt many people have any idea where our water comes from or how it gets to the sink. All they know is they go to any sink anywhere and turn the handle and water comes out. Now that water IS an issue and people are writing about it, more are finding out how truly amazing it really is that you can just turn a handle and water comes out. Especially in a desert.
And that’s really the key to the whole topic. Water itself is NOT an issue of “absolute” scarcity. It’s an issue of “geographic” scarcity. What the heck does that mean? Absolute scarcity means there is only so much of a given commodity. Once it’s used its gone. No more can be created. Geographic scarcity means that there is plenty of the commodity, it’s getting it to where people need it that makes it scarce. There is MORE than enough water on this planet to service the needs of many billions of people and because it’s in a constant cycle of use, ocean, evaporation, precipitation, use, repeat, it will essentially never cease to exist or run out.
The issue is getting it to where we want it because we can’t control where it lands on earth as precipitation. Virtually every human civilization of any size up until about 150 years ago formed around natural bodies of water. Getting to it was simple, we basically lived on top of it. It wasn’t until we started forming cities in areas where water did NOT exist naturally, that the science and engineering of water relocation came into being. No one lived in Las Vegas for thousands of years because there isn’t any natural water there. Duh. I think I read that the human body can go up to about 14 days without food but only about 3 or 4 days without water. Choosing to live where water ain’t, isn’t real bright. Unless you have the science and engineering, or think you have the science and engineering, to get water there.
In the last 150 years, science and engineering have allowed us to form cities that can support MUCH more population from a water standpoint. Southern California wouldn’t have anywhere near the number of people if we needed to rely on naturally occurring bodies of water. In Southern California, water is geographically scarce. It isn’t here in the quantities necessary to support the people currently living here. And it certainly isn’t here in the quantities that we need to grow the population. Science and engineering solved that problem. We redirected natural bodies and flows of water from areas where they occurred naturally, to areas where we wanted them. That achievement extended the amount of growth this area could support from a water standpoint by at least 100 years.
At some point, however, even the water we redirect would have to INCREASE if we want growth to continue indefinitely. But what would happen if we not only couldn’t INCREASE the amount of water we redirect but experienced a DECREASE in the current amount because of drought?
Unfortunately we’re facing the reality of that scenario today.
More on this topic next month.