The effect of this is transporting more water in the air over longer distances. This "side effect" of global warming will likely make all of our past observations of precipitation rates in any given region completely moot. It also makes suspect any extrapolation of current precipitation trends into the future.
My reading of the current literature suggests to me that we might have an opposite problem, which is massive flooding in areas on a regular basis where previously they considered such floods "100 year" or "1000 year" storms.
What every climate scientist I have talked with agrees with, is that the current climate is being destabilized relative to historical records. Thus extrapolations become more and more uncertain (have larger error bars) as the initial conditions drift further and further away from anything on record.
The greenhouse effect warms the poles more than it warms the equator, thereby lowering that difference. So less wind. Which means the water that evaporates and then precipitates back down spends less time traveling horizontally in the wind. Evaporate straight up. Fall straight down.
So, wet areas get wetter. Dry areas get dryer.
Yes it rains out, from time to time and forms clouds which makes this all so very complex.
There is also the "new" opportunity to build reservoirs on the rain sheds. If it had been impractical before it can become practical given even a modest increase in the average yearly rainfall. I good example of that is the LA project to recover rain runoff rather than sluice it out to the ocean.
Following permaculture principles, you can transform a region from barren (where water evaporates and leaves your area) to a relative oasis. There are several current desert permaculture projects that illustrate this. We just need to start doing this on a large scale - at least within and around regions of population. Then much more of the pumped water will remain in the local system. As a bonus, local climates will be cooler on average. And you can grow a lot of food, if you choose to.
In the context of the GP comment, isn't that entirely dependent on how deep your holes are? By definition, if you dig holes "deep enough", then you won't run out of water. And they are providing a concrete example of somewhere that they do dig holes deep enough to not run out of water (though I'm not sure how constrained the population growth is there).
I wondered if that would counteract the sea rises caused by melting sea ice, but.. no. Apparently a worldwide rise of 1 meter is caused by around 1 quintillion kg of melted ice.
Surface water from rivers, lakes, streams, and reservoirs garner attention because they are visible and make the effects of changes and shortages easier to understand.
But a much more difficult crisis may already be upon us
in the form of aquifer depletion and may require a complete paradigm shift in how we approach conservation and usage.
As other commenters point out, there's a 2nd order effect: if you live in a low stress area, near (in a transportation sense, not Euclidean distance) a high stress area, you're bound to have problems unless border control comes to rescue.
I should have paid more attention in geopolitics class..
The actual definition of water stress used is:
> Baseline water stress measures the ratio of total water withdrawals to available renewable water supplies... Available renewable water supplies include surface and groundwater supplies and considers the impact of upstream consumptive water users and large dams on downstream water availability. Higher values indicate more competition among users.
So the first note is that this is measuring sustainability, not risk of water shortage; it doesn't factor in that Lake Superior has ~800x the current volume of Lake Powell. And it's meant to study competition for water rather than actual deficit, so 'high' stress is 40%-80% usage, and 'very high' stress is >80% usage. (In fairness, >80% is likely unsustainable because we don't capture water as it arrives. Drawing 100% doesn't mean a state-wide rainbarrel, so water will still reach surface plants as wells run dry.)
Second is that it's not clear how rainfall onto the lakes is being assigned. Michigan is "high" in the middle and "low" around the edges, so maybe it's being assigned to the nearest land area without accounting for piping and the usage compacts that govern where it goes? That wouldn't matter in most places, but Lake Superior in particular would distort things hugely.
Third, these are watershed-level colorations. If you zoom in on the dark red along the Mississippi, it turns out to be Jonesboro, Arkansas. That's a hilly/mountain region with flatter land on either side, and a bunch of manufacturing. As soon as it's streams hit the White River watershed, it drops back down to yellow. If they're drawing hard without pumping water uphill they might get into trouble, but things would still be ok downstream because no one on the Mississippi is relying on that area for water.
Climate change and water are Earth-scale problems. If we don't have an Earth-scale organization that has real power working to solve those problems, we're going to end up with a bunch of nations feverishly wasting even more of our dwindling resources to try to push the suffering onto each other.
Do you want countries building desalinization plants and planting forests, or do you want them accumulating missiles and building walls? Unless there is some organization with enough power to prevent countries from fighting each other, you're going to get the latter.
In fact, as someone charged with building and maintaining not only my own water sources and infrastructure, but community water resources as well, I would put forth that water resources - and their responsible usage - are governed by very unique hyperlocal conditions.
We all know that, for instance, the water resources and usage are different between New York City and the Colorado River Basin - and we wouldn't expect usage and sharing agreements between those two locales. But are you aware that similar scale differences in water resources and usage can exist within the same county ? Physics and economics make them just as impractical to share and manage.
There may indeed be drivers of global governance - and I typically find them distasteful - but I don't think this is one of them.
Yes, and what happens when 1 area does not have available water, another does, and the area with water does not want to share?
If some areas doesn't have enough water some people need to move out to areas that have enough (this is easy to say and hard to do). Areas that are borderline need to think hard about what gets priority - much of California has been ignoring this question for a long time (climate change may or may not make a difference in the future)
That is a real problem - and should be addressed - but the physics and economics dictate that the sharing need be relatively local.
So I would agree that it is a governance issue, but it is not going to be a global governance issue.
I think this is a topic where the details matter quite a bit, it is hard to generalize.
In the US, you could imagine pipelines bringing water from the East Coast westwards. That could transform water economics in much of the nation, maybe even save an aquifer or two.
GGP was arguing for global government, not international treaties.
How do you think you get a world government? I guarantee you it's not without somebody using some missiles!
those of us who build missiles.
Signed, someone else in your industry.
Good Luck. Signed, The new Right
no, just an opinion of a unrealistic dreamer. why wouldn't the govt be more corruptable by money than the current?
The real unpopular opinion: the solution is simply less people. we need less infra, not more, and the problem will sort itself out.
By overvaluing life, we have forgotten the value of life. We're killing everything, even the human spirit.
Local communities need to start fending for themselves and stop importing/exporting everything.
"but who gets to decide who gets to live and die?". everybody does. that's life
no "if". its worked for thousands of years. weak communities will die off. people will have something to live and fight for, humanity will get a renewed vigor, and the water crisis will fix itself.
It in the interest of the wealthy for their local communities to survive so they can grow food.
Why do I deserve all this water just because I was born here? Why doesn’t someone born in a water stressed environment deserve more water? Water is not a luxury, and we can’t easily make more of it, so I just don’t understand how we can knowingly transition into a more unfair world than ever and not feel bad about it.
I'm not sure I understand what you mean here.
Water is logistically hard and expensive to transfer; sustaining a place like Las Vegas is quite possible, but it relies on massive infrastructure development and expenditure to move water around. Selfishness is certainly part of the problem, from allotment-preservation in Colorado to international politics in Turkey. But to a significant degree, the core problem is that people simply live and use water in different places than it falls.
As far as an argument for allowing immigration, water fairness makes sense. But if we're talking about sharing water, I'm not sure if a lack of will is the central problem?
Some of us do, I'm also from a country that is small enough and wet enough (and likely to get wetter with climate change) that we can feasibly shift water from the wet north west to the drier south east.
Beyond what I'm already doing I don't know what else I can do - honestly on an individual level no one person can make a significant difference, it has to come on a governmental level and that requires good politicians with the electorate pushing them and frankly in my country I can't see that happening without massive voting reform that would require the turkeys to vote for Christmas.
In South America it's even crazier. Bolivia was forced to privatize their water system as part of the neoliberal polices they needed to enact in order to get a world bank loan. That new company banned rainwater collection and has used heavily armed paramilitaries to enforce it.
There's an interesting comment below suggesting that bans may be more about preventing mosquito breeding grounds than capturing water supply.
Spelling out places might be helpful in a forum that is global. To me, CO means
* Colombia, the country. I don't know much about water rights, usage and distribution there.
* Colorado, the US state. Certainly a place where water rights are a hot topic.
* Central Oregon, where I live, where it is also very dry and water makes or breaks farm and ranch operations.
* Province of Como, abbreviated CO on license plates in Italy. Water isn't quite so contested there as far as I know.
Nothing about wells or rural areas, just 1-4 family units max and 110 gallons
Previously they were only "technically" illegal because as written, you had to prove they injured the water rights of others.
The part you're looking for is the part about the state engineer. I'm not sure if it's all settled, but the goal there is to ban it in places where they can make an argument that the grey water in the rain barrels and the rest of the water infrastructure might mix. That means that rural areas off of water infrastructure are the only safe ones long term.
> Previously they were only "technically" illegal because as written, you had to prove they injured the water rights of others.
There was case law that any collection infringed on the water rights of others, because otherwise the water would flow into aquifers and what not if you only had a third grade knowledge of the water cycle. You didn't have to find the specific person that was harmed. My MIL in rural JeffCo got in a zoning fight with county gov, and that was one of the things they successfully hit her with. It was enforced, my own family got hit with it.
It's like if you went into fight a speeding ticket by questioning quality of the radar gun. I mean, in an ideal world you should be allowed to, but it's not going to fly. Our common law style system has this overarching goal of internal consistency, and there's been tons of cases where the radar (or maybe some relative of the radar, but close enough as far as the court is concerned) has been legally found in the past to be trustworthy. It's also in the Court's best interest to have this line of reasoning because it saves the court from having to rehash the same arguments saving the court immeasurable amount of time. About the only way you can get out of that situation is new legislation.
The courts here had gotten into a similar state where it wasn't really willing to hear new evidence on the matter, and needed legislation to patchfix. Something something checks and balances.
The private part doesn't sound crazy all by itself, but I think it is a challenge to create systems that prevent a private regulated utility from abusing its privileged position.
That's not going to be affordable for many poorer countries. It's expensive enough that Queensland only turns that plant on for emergencies.
The CO2 emissions would also only intensify the problem.
Desalination costs ~3$ per 1,000 gallons of which around 40% is electricity costs, that’s generally affordable for most areas based on consumption and local economic conditions. Though again, not for farming.
There are running costs other than electricity, but it's always talked about as being power-intensive, so it seems fair to assume the cost of electricity dominates.
$1 for a thousand gallons seems like a non issue for domestic use in developed countries. It's on par with the cheapest rates consumers currently pay in Europe, while some countries pay 8x more . Even in most poor countries it should be attainable.
The issue is just keeping them on standby is expensive. So, if you only need one for 6 months every 3 years you end up paying a lot more per m3 of water.
I tracked down a copy of that paper. It opens with:
"The cost of desalinated seawater has fallen below US$0.50/m3 for a large scale seawater reverse osmosis plant at a specific location and conditions while in other locations the cost is 50% higher (US$1.00/m3) for a similar facility. In addition to capital and operating costs, other parameters such as local incentives or subsidies may also contribute to the large difference in desalted water cost between regions and facilities. Plant suppliers and consultants have their own cost calculation methodologies, but they are confidential and provide water costs with different accuracies. The few existing costing methodologies and software packages such as WTCost© and DEEP provide an estimated cost with different accuracies and their applications are limited to specific conditions. Most of the available cost estimation tools are of
the black box type, which provide few details concerning the parameters and methodologies applied for local conditions."
I read through the rest of it. To the extent that it offers cost comparisons of some large scale SWRO projects, they seem to be self-reported and come from projects in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Oman, and Australia. This leads me to a couple of concerns WRT the construction and operating costs of SWRO projects:
(a) that a comprehensive, independent, apples-to-apples accounting of the costs of these projects has not yet been done;
(b) that some of the long-term costs are being externalized, especially the expected impacts on local ecological systems that become the necessary dumping grounds for the wastewater;
(c) that the costs to date are severely location-specific, and do not address for instance trying to transport seawater a mile uphill as needed in many of the areas expected to or currently experiencing severe freshwater instability.
Clearly SWRO is a viable option in specific areas that have nearby access to a suitable water source, good power infrastructure (or solar availability), a lack of freshwater availability, and an appropriate wastewater treatment strategy (or, more likely -- and sadly -- loose regulations that obviate the need to address this).
But calls for SWRO as a worldwide, one-size-fits-all, cheap solution are misguided and misinformed, IMO. Mostly I worry that "just build desal" will frustrate efforts for conservation and improving existing infrastructure, especially in places where desal isn't a viable option anyway.
That paper is also from 2012, but I generally agree with your conclusions.
I think that's clearly the crux of the problem with desalination. It works well right now in wealthy countries. Israel couldn't exist without it. The Carlsbad plant in San Diego can provide water for about 500,000 people and the monthly average water bill in San Diego is around 2x the national average ($80 vs $35-$40; it'd be higher if San Diego were purely desalination). $80/month in a combination water source approach is an affordable problem in high income countries, for such a valuable resource. And it's an impossible cost - even at half that price - for all but the top few percent of families in India, Egypt or Pakistan.
At that price greywater reuse and low-flow everything become obviously worthwhile. It boggles my mind that the average American uses 100 gallons of water per day, but that's partially because of how cheap water is.
Good that most of the places facing droughts tend to get lots of sun. Using increasingly cheap solar power for desalination seems like a perfect fit, especially as water is easily stored and desalination plants can offset power production peaks/demand lows.
it's an externality that can't be hand-waved away as trivial when considering massive adoption of rain barrels.
It will be up to the states and national governments' to fix this with legislation.
What is needed most are laws preventing, or at least disincentivizing, taking more out than what is coming in. Of course this is really hard: water systems don’t follow neat political boundaries, so one entity drilling deeper or damming a river also drains the water of its neighbors.
40000/100 = 400 days of usage.
*I don't really have an estimate but a lot IMO
Having grown up in the California central valley (the Ag capital of the country), it's really sad to see the state flora and fauna suffer so that people who live on the other side of the planet can get almonds.
They've been using that expertise to help out the Indians.