Fresh Water Fright
Water, water nowhere. Speaking of Fright Night, imagine how bad it could get and how fast. Turn on the tap and get a dribble. Short, cold showers. Brown, crispy grass. Very dirty cars. Dirty clothes/dishes. Not to mention famine and giant forest fires.
Rent a copy of Soylent Green. Note that one minor note in it's symphony of a dystopic future (2022) is a scary fresh water shortage. It's even scarier than the movie's main theme.
I strongly believe - probably since I live in the western U.S. - that the most immediate threat of global warming is megadrought. Snowpacks are shrinking as fast as the North Pole sea ice. That means dry streams, rivers and reservoirs out here. And surely you've heard about what's happening in the normally wet southeastern U.S.
The New York Times Sunday Magazine today (10.21.07) has a blockbuster piece on the subject called The Future is Drying Up. [You have to "subscribe" to read it, but it's free and they don't punish you with spam, etc. for signing up. It's worth it.]
Assume our "leaders" can't get a handle on global warming. So what's to be done? Here is my humble plan:
PROBLEM: The biggest user of fresh water in the world is AGRICULTURE. We gotta eat, so Ag is mandatory.
SOLUTION: Make drip irrigation a national priority. They really know how to do it in Israel, and it's becoming a huge business for them. We could save billions of gallons of water and have another big business ourselves. Couldn't hurt.
PROBLEM: There is always too much water somewhere in the U.S., flooding folks. The water's frequently abundant where we need it least and missing from where we need it most.
SOLUTION: Build a national water pipeline network. Build the infrastructure necessary to catch floodwater before it floods and send it through the pipes to the drought-stricken. I realized this is a huge project - but so was the Interstate Highway System, and we managed that. The cost is zip compared to the cost of massive, long term drought.
PROBLEM: We waste almost all of the rain that falls, even in drying times. It sluices down storm drains, polluted by street oils, insecticides and other gunk and into our rivers and out to sea.
SOLUTION: Catch and store! If we all caught just the rain that hits our roof tops and put it in inexpensive cisterns - zowee, lots of water that doesn't drain our reserves.
How about a GIANT "CLOUD" OF MILLIONS OF PERSONAL CISTERNS!? (If I can do it, you can do it.)
If water rationing comes to your town, YOU still need fresh water to water your lawn/garden. YOU need water to wash your clothes and dishes and car and dog. YOU want to do your personal part to help the situation. So just do it.
PROBLEM: No matter how much we redistribute, save and store fresh water, we are always going to need more.
SOLUTION: Make it another national priority to improve the technology and scale of desalination. Power it with solar, wind, geothermal, wave power ... anything but hydrocarbons. Again if we do all that better than anyone else, we have many new exportable products. New jobs; new wealth to spread around. More water security.
SUPER SOLUTION: All we need is visionary, determined, inspirational leadership. Hey, no problemo.