Friday, June 22, 2007

Water Shortages Solved!

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat is a daily newspaper that is the closest thing we have in Gualala to a local daily newspaper. However, it is 75 miles southeast of Gualala, so we don’t loom large in their news coverage.

In the early 1950’s my brother Ron and I delivered the Press Democrat in Point Arena for several years. In those days it published every day except Saturday.

About a year ago the Press Democrat offered, and I accepted, participation in occasional on-line polls. I have faithfully taken every poll, and I have noticed that each poll has a decided “in-the-box” orientation. The items discussed are very conventional, and the choices are too. When taking each poll, you get the feeling that the intended outcome is we need more laws, or more regulations, or more limitations, or more restrictions, and “Oh, by the way,” we need bigger government and higher taxes. Today’s survey was no exception:

Today we are inviting you to participate in our latest online survey. This one focuses on water conservation efforts and recent state directives to reduce diversions from the Russian River.

Why is water scarce in this area?

Possibly because the population in this area has tripled or quadrupled in less than fifty years. Possibly because the success of the Napa Valley vineyards have inspired other vineyards to be planted all over Sonoma and Mendocino counties. And obviously, I think, because a combination of rapid population increase and more intensive use of the land requires more water.

Or is it because global warming is causing great droughts, where none were before?

Out of the above possible reasons, and a lot I haven’t listed (and have no intent of listing), the global warming one is the only one that has absolutely no reason to be listed, but is probably the one most in the minds of the water-deprived peoples of Northern California.

Only a few decades ago, in the 1970’s, my brother Ron and others living at that time in the Santa Rosa area regaled me with tales of drought. He told me of publicity encouraging couples to shower or bathe together, and then to take the waste water from the tub (or trap it in a wading pool in the shower), and use it to water plants and lawn. And don’t even think of washing your car.

Interestingly, this Northern California drought occurred during a cooling period, one which was memorialized by apocalyptic forecasts of imminent global cooling.

Back to the Press Democrat survey. The survey raised the issues and the choices you might expect:

Should we stop diverting water to protect the fish?
Should we restrict water to farmers? To cities?
Cut lawn watering?
Have lawns ripped out and replaced with drought-resistant plants?

In other words, should we change the way we slice the water pie, or should we change the recipients of slices, or do a combination?

Nowhere was the obvious and only workable solution proposed: Should we make a bigger water pie?

Here we all are, over 30 million Californians, about 90% of us living within 50 miles of the Pacific, and we are constantly arguing and agonizing over our scarce, and rapidly dwindling, water resources.

It is as if the word “desalinization” is taboo, never to be uttered in polite water scarcity discussions. Of course, desalinization is expensive. Therefore, in water scarce areas, any new users of water, or increased water users, should have to pay the higher costs of producing desalinated water. Perhaps the higher costs would encourage some potential newcomers to locate elsewhere. That would be a useful step in and of itself towards conservation of scarce water resources.

California is not alone in growing much faster than its existing sources of water can handle. The answer is simple: develop more sources of water by building desalination plants. That, of course, would require that California also add more energy generating capacity, which for all practical purposes, means more nuclear, gas, oil, and coal.

Alternative energy sources will remain expensive diversions from meeting energy needs. Resources spent in fruitless attempts to prevent global warming (and soon, to prevent global cooling), are resources wasted that could have been used beneficially to enable humankind to do what humans do best: adapt to a constantly changing environment.

Building desalinization and generating plants will be expensive, but the era of unlimited water resources is long passed, and in truth never existed. Already we know that power production world wide must be tripled, at least, by 2050 no matter what the environmentalist Luddites think.

Regardless of what our California Limousine Liberals think, over half the world is not going to willingly continue to live short, nasty, brutish lives of abject poverty just because the Left is looking on environmentalism as their last, best chance to seize power over the world's resources and economies.

The wealthier humankind becomes, the better it can adapt to change. Sea levels have risen over 400 feet in the past 21,000 years. Building sea walls and dikes are much more cost effective and humane than trying to freeze human development into a low-energy use mode.

Already we can see positive trends associated with increasing wealth: birth rates are decreasing rapidly in many developing countries, which eventually will reduce population growth and the human impacts on scarce resources. At the moment, half the population of the world lives in poverty and despoils their environment because they have no alternative for survival.

The Left's narrow, arrogant NIMBY (not in my back yard - or in anybody's back yard for that matter) attitudes are going to be overwhelmed by the needs to increase energy production and add water resources to enable humankind to eliminate crushing poverty.
It can be done, but not by trying to freeze human progress in fruitless efforts to stop the Earth's natural forces of constant change.

The Earth doesn’t need armies of Chicken Littles incessantly crying panic as the Earth continues along its path of change. A hefty dose of capitalism and democratic governments will enable humankind to adapt to change, and to lead longer, healthier, happier, and of course, more prosperous lives.

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