In my opinion we have absolutely no business growing these crops in a desert, especially just to ship them out of the country. Unfortunately the Governor of Utah makes his money (you guessed it) growing Alfalfa in a desert, and he recently gave an impassioned speech about how those of us asking for certain types of agriculture to stop in our desert don't understand how important farming is.
Of the remaining 18%,
~ 8% goes to commercial/industrial use
~ 10% goes to municipal residential use (outdoor: 6%, indoor: 4%) 
Water usage in industry is massive. Individuals aren't to blame and shouldn't take any part of the burden. Similarily, CO2.
I am more apt to agree with Hank Green  that success in major social restructuring requires involvement at the individual level, too, because this encourages secondary behaviors that reinforce the restructuring. People who are voluntarily quitting hamburgers and steaks are more apt to write to their representatives or donate to NGOs that do in support of this issue, initially and to check in later on that promises are kept.
As another example, Alec, who publishes youtube videos as _Technology Connections_, recently published a video about using his house as a thermal battery  so he can offset his energy use to night time, rather than running his AC at peak hours. He suggests that utilities involve residents to widen this strategy, in favor of brownouts or other centralized tools for shedding load in extreme circumstances. A policy solution that did not burden individuals with brownouts, ex by overprovisioning generation, would fall back on their shoulders in the form of higher utility rates. I allege the same would be the case for adverse climate change or overallocated water usage.
Utah farmers get their water almost for free, while city residents pay closer to its marginal delivery cost.
This isn't wise public policy choice made by 21st century philosopher-legislators, but simply the path-dependent product of an anachronistic 19th-century framework of "water rights" plus 100+ years of lobbying. It doesn't help that the state senate (like all state senates) is designed to over-represent rural areas.
Second-order solutions like rationing beef might be morally laudable, I just don't think they're really in play until you address the main structural failures, which almost everyone agrees on.
Above all, you need an effective government at the core. Markets are fantastic for helping large groups of people make locally optimal decisions within global constraints, but you have to be able to establish those global constraints effectively. Water rights, climate impact, employment structures, supply chain resilience… none of that stuff is inherently baked into prices, and governments won’t fix those problems unless they’re solution-focused with low levels of corruption.
I don’t think this has been true since Reynolds v. Sims almost 60 years ago. Since then state senates have been pretty pointless (just small equivalents of the lower houses) and really should be abolished.
In California, for example, it’s just a mechanism for assembly members who want to stick around beyond their term limits to have a chance at another couple of terms. As I understand the problems of term limits I probably shouldn’t complain.
As long as unsustainable water usage continues to be subsidized, I, as a customer, have little ability to prioritize less water intensive products.
If you want consumers to make informed choices, either add the externalities to the monetary price, or enforce rationing.
It's not that 8% of the remaining 18% is commercial/industrial; it's that 8% of the total (not part of the 82% agricultural) is commercial.
In other words:
* 44% of non-agricultural use (8% of the total, within the 18% non-ag) is commercial/industrial,
* 33% of non-agricultural use (6% of the total, within the 18% non-ag) is outdoor residential, and
* 22% of non-agricultural use (4% of the total, within the 18% non-ag) is indoor residential
^Data are on page 4/16 of the linked PDF
The amount exported is something like 0.005% of the evapotranspiration amount.
Here are some numbers  for Idaho crops. There might be some differences in Utah but they should be in the same ballpark.
> Not much water is exported with alfalfa hay. Potential irrigated alfalfa hay yield at elevations near 4000 feet is about 7.5 tons/acre. Hay harvested at 12% moisture removes 240 lbs water/ton hay, or 1,800 lbs/acre for a normal crop of alfalfa hay per year.
> Evapotranspiration (ET) is the primary use of water by alfalfa and averages about 36 inches/year (900 mm) at Kimberly. The ET at peak periods of 0.4 inches/day (10 mm/day) can reach 4080 tons of water per acre and 45 tons per acre per day.
It's so staggeringly wasteful it's hard to understand
Underground aquifers fill over decades and centuries, and in this environment, almost always laterally, not from seepage from rainfall. I think the demand for proof needs to go the other way, honestly. Presumptively this water is pretty clearly "wasted".
The evaporation figures I can find range from 30% to 50%, which is hardly virtually all. I've never been to the Utah desert, but in the California desert I've dumped out water and watched it disappear into the ground. The absence of streams only indicates that seepage and evaporation together get all of the water that would otherwise flow in them.
> Underground aquifers fill over decades and centuries, and in this environment, almost always laterally, not from seepage from rainfall. I think the demand for proof needs to go the other way, honestly. Presumptively this water is pretty clearly "wasted".
Unconfined aquifers will fill as fast as rainfall can seep in, which depending on the area can be a lot less than decades.
How is letting the Colorado flow into the Pacific more of a "waste" than using that water to grow food and letting the excess seep into the water table and fall as rain on the other side of the Rockies?
And "disappearing into the ground" is absolutely not water entering an aquifer! All you get is wet dirt. Which then... dries out. Again, this isn't how aquifers work.
There's no free lunch here. Growing plants in a desert under the open sky requires a staggering amount of water. It just does. If you want to push efficiency measures look at greenhouses.
Are you confusing confined aquifers and unconfined aquifers? That's exactly how unconfined aquifers work. Where I live the wells never go dry because every time it rains they are replenished.
Maybe the desert doesn't have unconfined aquifers and that's why you're so strident on this? I really don't know, but I'm curious so please elucidate if you can.
Flood irrigation here is just as bad as if they were doing it in Phoenix or Las Vegas
If you stand on the border of the Mojave, you probably have one foot in the Great Basin desert that covers the west half of the state. The parent probably simply described or generalized to the wrong desert.
A climate map  shows that the only parts of the state which aren't desert are arid mountains; the Salt Lake area has a bit of lake effect snow but that's not in the Colorado River watershed.
Replace water-intensive crop with something more appropriate.
Replace flood irrigation with something like aquaponics which is leagues more water efficient.
Deserts have ecosystems that are adapted to life with limited water. Trying to transplant a crop that evolved with plentiful water into an ecosystem with very little is a bad idea. Even worse is the capitalistic incentive to divert natural watercourse to farm in an arid region.
The thing we should do in this situation is increase our ocean desalination efforts (not to an extent that would counteract sea level rise, but it wouldn't hurt), alongside creating more water pipelines to achieve better distribution into areas which need it. We aren't going to stop crowing crops in desert conditions. It's too effective. We should build more water pipelines to bring water into regions like the California central valley and Colorado and Utah where water is more scarce but crop conditions are good aside from the water availability.
> 82% of Utah water goes to farmers.
In 2021, we don't need to grow Alfalfa in the desert. Especially not when it's being exported out of state anyway.
This is a micro sized problem of the larger scale fractal problem of climate crisis and industrial shifts needed to address it.
It’s also not just the knowledge and technology capital involved, like many startups here, it’s connection to markets that matter to produce income. Ag wise it’s not clear what other, lower water-usage crop one would switch to, or how our system would encourage, or require, or incentivize that change.
Just one example: If we switched to electric cars and eliminated the need for the midwest to grow corn for ethanol, then a tremendous amount of farmland would open up. So you're right to ask the macro question, it's just that the answer is complicated.
I'm not so sure. CorpFarmUSA will still want to continue growing the exact same crop, and would probably just find alternate buyers. They have so much clout with their lobby. Knee jerk reaction is to Save The Farmers!!!, yet if people actually stopped and looked at what how these farms are operating, the knee jerk reaction might change.
However, it is 2021 and I'm very cynical, so I do not believe people are willing to consider any view outside their own to be able to come to comprimise.
I'm not arguing it's not worth disrupting, but it's not a simple problem.
The water used in agriculture will mostly evaporate or become part of the plant. Little of it will make it back to the source.
It's better than what we usually do: destroy natural bio-diverse habitats along rivers and coasts and replace them with housing and strip malls.
And yet, due to this land being near a major metroplex, we are busy paving it over with roads and buildings. Mostly what is grown now is Kentucky bluegrass, which doesn't do so great here (or anywhere besides Kentucky?) and so needs frequent applications of pesticides and water to stay green.
Market forces, I know. But from a larger perspective, how does this situation make the slightest bit of sense?
63% goes to California for growing almonds and oranges? and 0% left for Mexicans?
You might as well just say people shouldn't be living in most of the western US then since a majority of it receives very little rainfall.
It's very easy to call these people out when you're not directly affected. Yes just strip them of their major sources of income. No issue there....
You need a better plan than just telling the Governor to shut up and be ok with losing money.
Lay down a layer of rock landscaping over landscaping fabric around a home in suburban Minnesota without maintaining it (e.g. by aggressively applying weed preventer and weeding it) and in 3-5 years it will be covered with native prairie grasses and weeds growing between and around the rock.
It does not. I lived in the midwest for the majority of my life and never once had to water my lawn to keep everything green and alive.
Ok then they'll use it up and the problem will solve itself.
I don't agree that you can live there and have the infrastructure to support jobs, food etc. with "very little impact"
You act like these farms are just there because they like wasting water. Someone is buying the product or they wouldn't exist.
If you want a modern lifestyle deal with it. Deserts are going to have to be used for growing stuff.
All of which is to say, our water problems are as much a political problem - due to overuse in farming - as anything.
Flooding fields is not required for rice farming. Its done to control weeds, not because the rice crop demands it.
That said, arguments like yours present a powerful reason not to waste resources on what is largely illusory security.
They could start by banning lawns and golf courses in the desert. No reason someone living in Phoenix needs a verdant green lawn. Maybe place some limits on unsustainable agriculture in the desert. I imagine such bans would be a tough sell in most parts but it's hard to imagine how else the land can recover.
You could probably get another ~30% reduction in residential use by eliminating lawns. Depending upon how you go about it, trees are probably more important in that environment though as a cooling element. Our backyard patio increases heat by a good 5-10 degrees on sunny days.
But it's still not much water saved. The only reason to do it would be to sell it politically - "everyone has to sacrifice". Which I'm fine with. But if your goal is to make residents do this but tell farmers they can do whatever they want, it's kinda pointless.
Edit: I also think there's somewhat responsible ways to have lawn in California. Subsurface irrigation can reduce lawn water usage by 30-40%. And certain drought tolerant grasses require 60-80% less water. These setups seem very rare though.
It might be easier to convince people to not grow lawns if we'd do away with some of the stupid laws and ordinances that require people to have "well groomed" lawns in places where such grass is an unnatural imported occurrence.
Perhaps even offer some tax breaks or other incentives to "zeroscape" or landscape their yards using native plant life suited to the climate. A yard without a lush verdant lawn need not be an ugly yard. It can still have plants and look nice without grass, if we'd "normalize" more nature/planet friendly practices instead of punishing people for not being destructive to their environment.
I bring this point up because here in Utah many neighborhoods will actually fine you if you don't have a lush green lawn in your yard. (Unless of course you're rich, then somehow you magically get approval to go the zeroscape route if you so desire.)
I would definitely like to see it taken farther as you have suggested -- give tax breaks and subsidies for people xeriscaping or replacing lawns with synthetic turf.
And it definitely works. I knew a lot of people in HOAs that mandated residents eliminate a certain amount of lawn due to these fines.
The only reason it started growing so quickly is because A/C became available. Prior to that they couldn't use swamp coolers mid summer due to the monsoon season making it too humid to work. Water, power, etc, all of that was already there.
A better example is someplace like Las Vegas.
Although the Utah officials are aware that the Colorado River is drying up, they basically justify it saying (paraphrase), "Utah hasn't gotten its fair share yet".
Also as trivia... if you're familiar with the popular Youtube channel "What's Inside", the family lives in St George UT which is the growing city the VICE video is about. The family often mentions the advantages of St. George after recently moving from SLC.
And now I understand why farms waste so much of it.
As another reply mentions, existing technologies that are in use tend to be quite expensive (in terms of cost and power/resource usage required to get the job done on any sort of large scale).
Desalinization works just fine--if you have an ocean nearby.
In California, desalinization plants keep getting built and will eventually be able to handle the water needs of people near the coasts.
However, there is no way desalinization can ever support farming. And that's 80+% of the water consumption.
Either you shut down the farms now or when the water runs out--that's the only option.
The problem for agriculture is that desalinization is expensive--several orders of magnitude more expensive than sucking it out of the aquifer. You won't be growing any cheap or staple crops with that.
And, we could certainly supply the people in the Central Valley of California with pipelined desalinated water. However, if the agribusinesses disappear, so will the cities. Thus making a water pipeline moot.
One approach might be to implement surcharges associated with water from these reservoirs, to reduce economic viability of overuse, and create incentives to enable other sources of water.
We have know this for more than 140 years . Since my previous post I can now also strongly recommend that everyone (yes, everyone) living in the western United States read at least the introduction to Beyond the Hundredth Meridian. The introduction is more relevant now than it was when it was written 67 years ago, itself 75 years after the publication of Lands of the Arid Region.
I fully expect the western water related engineering projects of the 20th century to fail in this century because you can't store what never falls from the sky, and you cannot refill a depleted aquifer. Powell presented us with the reality of the ecological and political situation, maybe some day we will finally get around to implementing the solution [3,4].
Edit: for a special treat RE the thread on water usage in Utah as see the discussion of page 84 (96) of  where Powell writes the following: "In general, there is a great wastage, due to badly constructed canals, from which the water either percolates away or breaks away from time to time; due, also, to too rapid flow, and also to an excessive use of the water, as there is a tendency among the farmers to irrigate too frequently and too copiously, errors corrected only by long experience." Apparently long experience is more than 140 years.
0. https://pubs.usgs.gov/unnumbered/70039240/report.pdf LANDS OF THE ARID REGION John Wesley Powell 1878
1. https://erenow.net/modern/beyond-the-hundredth-meridian/1.ph... Bernard DeVoto 1954
2. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West ISBN:9780140159943 Wallace Stegner 1954
If we can't be proactive about the real problem let's fake it being reactive to artificial acceleration.
There are places in the south now that need water to be delivered by trucks due to shortages. At some point it is going to be pointless to live there and housing market in those areas will collapse.
Coastal areas will be flooded due to increasing sea levels.
Places with little to no rain will experience more extreme fires(happening now).
I'm sure Midwest will also experience more severe weather but you can make it work, living under water or without water is impossible.
For now, anyways.
EDIT: and yeah, amazing you're getting downvoted. I've been downvoted here for expressing the same sentiment before.
The reality is that the whole "climate crisis" thing is gonna require humanity in general to gang up on the problem from all angles and each contribution will help the overall situation improve to some degree. The sum of all those contributions is the solution.
The longer we keep looking to corporations, politicians, and scientists to come up with a "magic bullet" for the problem, the worse it's gonna be for everyone and the less likely any amount of human efforts will be able to improve it again.
Regarding the various aspects of the unsustainability of our society and how it is reaching its limits, this wiki subsection is a very good read (and the rest of the wiki page as well, separated into concrete sections, and links to lots of source materials):
Some good info at that link. Thank you for that.
(Gonna take me a while to read through it all, but at least it gives me something to do with my time besides just storing up survival resources and stress-levels while I wait for it to happen.)
Collapse of ecology is certainly a problem. The Colorado river is not (for residents). A tiny portion of the population who farms consumes more than all of the residential use combined.
We make farmers pay for the fucking water they use and then the problem is solved. This doesn’t even require a technological breakthrough.
What BC lacks is a water storage plan; as you've mentioned, our glaciers and snow pack are no longer reliable.
And there's the impact from less water in rivers and streams to consider, and how that will effect the ecology.
That said, the recent heat wave hit the coast pretty badly, too.
We're building rain storage right now, in the form of Site C.
EDIT: It's a dam built on the Peace, which is out of the Rockies, on the other side from most of BC. And a long way from anywhere in B.C. that will be requiring drinking water or irrigation really. The farm land that would be irrigated I would imagine would be primarily on the Alberta side.
The intended use of the water is for power generation, but I think dams are clear model of how to build rain water reservoirs going forward.
Because it’s an irrational prioritization. It’s like refusing to move to a new location for your dream job because the cost of milk is a little higher.
People like yourself and OP tend to struggle with this because it’s hard to imagine water not being an unlimited free resource. Once you think of it like food or any other utility, you’ll realize there is a always a price point where you can get it and it’s just one of another many costs you analyze in a place.
So holding onto an investment property in a location where I think prices will go up in the next 20 years is irrational. I simply stated my opinion, you can disagree with it all you like.
I'm a programmer, I can do my dream job from the comfort of my home without traveling, wasting my time and gas.
Thinking that they will go up because of water is the irrational bit.
Israel is the worst case (desalination of sea water) and water is still affordable there. It’s a non-issue that would be as far down the list of considerations when choosing where to live as electricity costs.
You may have “thought about it” a lot, but even a little bit of research of what the worst case looks like would have revealed it’s a terrible reason for any investment plans.
In your other post you literally brag about how wasteful you can be with water (kids spraying hose, etc). Living without unlimited water takes an adaptation that the majority of the world deals with just fine. It’s only the people who grew up with it that have an irrational fear of the concept of it being a limited resource like any other.
An argument for moving to Florida or Louisiana, where the water will be delivered to your home for free in short order.
Dark humor, but sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.
Water rights are a huge mess and I see it being the thing that eventually breaks up pacts between most nations. The US and EU will cease to be and nations will go to war over it.
The legislation around these rights is a time bomb.
Honestly, I don't think we need to worry about global warming, Apple basically solved it by not including a charging brick with the iPhone12 and new watches! /s
This sums up how capitalism feels about global warming.
I don't mean to nit pick, but clarification in this context is appropriate I think.
For example, I live about 500 meters from the Pacific ocean, but my house is in absolutely no danger of flooding, because we're about 100 meters above sea level, and we are at the top of a rise. There's nothing 'above' us, so no rain flooding is possible.
Many costal areas will flood due to sea level rise; many more costal areas will flood even sooner due to increasing storms.
But it's quite possible to live safely near the ocean.
It is possible to live safely near the ocean, provided your government has the foresight to build storm barriers. At the moment, one of the only places where this is true is the Netherlands.
Also, there's a more plausible reason for river basin floods - melting glaciers and upstream floods.
I agree. The vast majority of people who live near the ocean are at risk. I was thinking in rather privileged terms as someone able to pick and choose where to live.
I chose this location, surrounded on three sides by cold Pacific water, because of the strong temperature moderating effects.
Among those within a few miles of the Pacific in a radius of 50 miles from my location, at least 95% of them will be strongly affected by sea level rise and temporary surges due to strong storms.
"... one of the only places where this is true is the Netherlands."
For the time being. :(
What might make more sense is growing more warm climate fruits and vegetables in the Great Lakes with the abundant water supplies as the climate there gets warmer, and exporting those elsewhere.
This is already happening in portions of the southern UK which are now growing champagne grapes as the traditional locations in France are getting progressively drier.
You can export water out of the watershed in containers no larger than 5.7 gallons (~21.5 liters)
Build a short loop of rail, half in the watershed and half out of it. Drive a train in a circle continuously. When you are inside the watershed, fill up the 5.7 gallon containers (just make it a continuous waterfall that you drive through or something). When you are outside the watershed, dump them into a reservoir/pumping facility. There's nothing anybody could do about it.
All the states with GL watershed agreed to the compact not-so-long ago. In a case of such egregious rule-skirting, couldn't they just agree to close the loophole?
Obviously you can't predict too far out, but like you've said, the midwest seems likely to be a winner in the short-term. I've also seen a lot about the Russian permafrost melting, and I can't help but think they'll come out ahead as well. It makes me wonder if they've done that same mental math, because it would give them incentives that conflict with most of the rest of the world.
Whether or not we have the ability now, or will have the ability in the future, to reverse course on climate change was entirely unrelated to the point I was trying to make.
Almost certain to be true … temporarily.
I'm not sure how I want to balance the pragmatism I can execute on with this mobility to move to somewhere tolerable in the midwest (MN comes to mind), vs. a common nihilistic trend that warming will affect everyone*, might as well live where I want to live (not MN comes to mind).
I worry we're experiencing "gradually then suddenly" trend with climate developments, but I have difficulty placing if it's a me-concern, or grandkids concern.
MSPL tech is (or used to: unclear if remote work will change this) appealing b/c of the corporate cluster around there, and the city's future despite last year seems ok as it's the main eastern urban hub for all the rural farming stretching west of it. I work with a lot of remote folks from MSPL, so seems like there is a tech community.
Chicago seems interesting, but as I understand it the state finances are upside down because of pensions and the like, and it's slowly reflecting in income taxes.
The infrastructure issue is a huge problem. Municipalities are going bankrupt. They can't afford to replace these systems that were laid out decades ago. Who will pay for it when there isn't money available even to pay existing pensions on the municipality and the state level, and federal policy changes with the wind every 4 years? In the mean time while that is being debated historic storms are finding the weakest links to stress and breaking them, and compromises are being made to sustain the bare essential of infrastructure.
And that's just the public works. Homes are rotting too, and they aren't building new ones fast enough. A housing tract that was nice and new in 1995 probably needs work on the roof today, a repair bill that might be worth 10-20% the total value of the home. You won't get that nice coastal salary to make these sorts of bills worry free, either. This is the midwest where engineers are paid like 80k and that's seen as pretty good pay.
Then a few decades later, the US will have its very own Aral Sea.
That particular cynicism aside, what will probably happen is that sufficient global warming will make the desert actually uninhabitable and people will migrate to the Great Lakes.
So, whatever helps you sleep at night.
As dev with a dual citizenship and ability to work anywhere in Europe, I have pretty high mobility and I can always move.
In any case, yes it is a bet to hold property there for that reason. Good luck.
Why do you think that? They are clearly fine with the most expensive option already.
> Coastal areas will be flooded due to increasing sea levels.
No, some coastal areas will have problems with this where the inland has very little elevation gain (e.g. Florida). A house in the South Bay Area alternatively has a lower flood risk than anything near the Great Lakes (just because of the precipitation received on the eastern half of the US).
> Places with little to no rain will experience more extreme fires(happening now).
Some will. It depends on the ecology. Many of these places on fire have fire as part of biological cycle (I.e. the California forests) so if you weren’t ready for that risk you were screwed regardless of climate change.
> I'm sure Midwest will also experience more severe weather but you can make it work, living under water or without water is impossible.
And neither of those things will be feasible outcomes for those of us in the West.
Unless you’re a farmer, living near the Great Lakes for water security is pretty stupid. You have a higher chance of being killed by a tornado or a lightning strike than there being a water shortage that makes the west unlivable.
Israel desalinates ocean water and a fuckload of people still live there.
Unlivable? Probably not. But more expensive? Absolutely.
And once the agricultural economy needs to shut down due to free water not being free anymore, I'll expect ghost cities all over the West, starting with small communities not able to provide enough jobs and not attractive enough to turn into retirement places for people with money.
So far the projections on temperature and rainfall changes are in line with what we see today, but hey, the jury is still out on that. Once we know for sure in roughly 25 years, it might be too late, so I take my chances based on what I know now.
We have 6 acres of arable land a 10 minute drive from Lake Ontario and a well into the Niagara Escarpment into an underground river that I can pull dozens of gallons a minute of water from. As I write this my son is splashing in the pool and spraying the dog with a hose ;-)
The people that move west move to the cities and they are already drastically more expensive than water rich places. The cost of water tripling in LA or SF for residents would be meaningless in the grand scheme of CoL.
Just look at electricity and gas prices in CA for an example of something else people have to pay way more for that realistically doesn’t matter.
Until you’re looking at order of magnitude increases, it will just be noise. And desalination doesn’t even require a 10x increase.
I agree that it's a demand-side issue, but the solutions are not "simple".
There was already not enough water for the rights distributed in the 1922 Colorado River Compact :
> The delegates figured allocations on hydrologic data from the Reclamation Bureau that indicated annual Colorado River flow at Lees Ferry to be 16.4 maf. In truth, however, Colorado River flow is a good deal less than that. Data from three centuries indicate an average flow of about 13.5 maf. Also, flows are highly erratic, ranging from 4.4 maf to over 22 maf.
> Built into the compact then, between what it promised and what the river was prepared to deliver, was water scarcity. There is not enough water to go around. As a result, water scarcity is the root of most of the disputes and problems subsequently arising over the compact and the Law of the River. It is a situation that links past and present Colorado River issues and will be an abiding concern in the future.
EDIT: You personally can make the choice to not live somewhere that will eventually face water scarcity .
 https://wrrc.arizona.edu/publications/arroyo-newsletter/shar... ("Sharing Colorado River Water: History, Public Policy and the Colorado River Compact")
There are solutions, but they are not simple. You could relocate the main users, like agriculture and industrial users, to areas that are not as arid. This would also cause some migration of individuals. I mean, that is the driver of the scarcity - building cities in the desert.
It might not be palatable, but it will look better the worse things get.
Climate change is happening because of changes to atmospheric composition, solar panels aren't going to have a massive impact on that.
Austerity is the bad, risky idea that isn't a solution to anything.
Solar panel production, like all industrial activity, is pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere, not to mention other pollutants - from mining, factories, transport.
Besides, we need to replace all fossil fuel energy generation as quickly as possible with renewable energy generation. Adding any extra energy consumption makes this vital goal more remote.
Perhaps once 100% of energy is produced from renewable sources with 0 carbon emissions, we could think about starting to grow energy consumption again. Before that, thinking about huge new industries like this is completely irresponsible.
While austerity as a solution to monetary crises is completely counter-productive and a non-solution, it is unfortunately mandatory to avert the worse effects of the climate crisis. We have run out of time entirely, unfortunately, ignoring and hiding this crisis for the past 50 years. Stagnating and even reducing consumption is the only possible response today that can prevent the worse effects of global warming.
The first step would be defanging whatever legal machinery HOA's use to ensure that you keep up with the Joneses re: how much water you can afford to waste.
...I could see how the residents of those latter states would not be too happy with that solution, though. But it's not like the Federal Government isn't already constantly picking favorites for subsidies (see ethanol, oil, etc.).
For example, many people will fight the industrial and agricultural water use tax because their jobs depend on it. It would force people out of that area when those jobs dry up, just as the mandatory changes would.
There would be no shortage of fresh water on earth if we simply put resources into solving these three problems.
If we want any semblance of current society to keep chugging along 50-100 years from now, we need to reduce our production of almost everything, energy most of all. There is simply no other solution to stop catastrophic global warming.
But it seems one way or the other these shifts are inevitable, either by choice or it left unaddressed the other way as a natural consequence and with much greater suffering. Same with water use in arid areas, it's either restricted today or ultimately gone tomorrow.
I guess the approach of burying our heads in the sand can be at least assured of an increasing sand supply to support it.
Harnessing the sun's energy and applying it towards water desalination and distribution would allow us to grow all sort of plants (including trees) in areas that would otherwise be unable to sustain plant growth.
Plants are composed largely of carbon that is extracted from the air, so the more plants you can grow, the closer we get to solving global warming.
Harnessing solar energy is not free - you still need to build solar panels or other kinds of solar plants. Producing these requires metals that need to be mined, forged and transported. Solar energy only works for half the day, and is only plentiful part of the year.
Not to mention, today we need to decommission all fossil fuels in the world and replace them with renewables, also covering the energy needs of emerging countries. So while in some distant future of 100% renewables we could contemplate desalination, we can't spare any energy today towards new industries.
Even so, it is unlikely that we could replace all of our current energy consumption with renewables, given the huge problems with variability, in the foreseeable future.
One side of the country is a desert unsuitable for growing crops, naturally stubborn Americans grow crops there anyway at staggering economic and environmental cost.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Mississippi, where I live, we get around three to four feet of rain per year for free, and corn grows pretty well most years without artificial irrigation.
It makes a lot more sense to move the farmers and their farms than to move the water or implement other hyper-high tech nonsense. The UAE of course has no choice so best of luck to them, but it probably won't work as well as simply moving the farms.
"We" do something similar with cows. In some states it costs 100000 gallons of irrigation water per pound of produced beef or whatever nonsense. In my state, we just call it rain water, and its free, LOL. Americans being Americans naturally we go to enormous expensive effort to make sure we grow cows where cows should not be grown, rather than simply moving the cows.
"We" also do something similar with humans. There's nothing special about a job done by humans in a desert, other than its an environmental, and eventually economic, disaster. Americans being Americans, we will spend everything we got and then some, to make sure that people can work from home in an uninhabitable unimaginably expensive desert rather than working from home in a nice easy place to live. We'll destroy the entire planet before we make people move from Vegas to Chicago. Which I guess says something about Chicago (LOL just kidding)
By my recent calculations, it is significantly cheaper to live in Arizona (my home state) than pretty much anywhere in California (a "nice place to live"). And yes, cost of living includes food.
If you took everyone in Vegas and put them in Chicago, you'd be pretty close to the Chicago population in 1960. Which I guess says something about Chicago (LOL just kidding)
No heavy metals or consumable materials needed?
Places in the west have historically, long before humans started increasing carbon dioxide, seen extended droughts lasting tens or hundreds of years. Human driven climate change could exacerbate this issue. If we want to be a people that lasts thousands of years we need to plan for events that happen in a thousand years.
If you look at a map you'll notice that there is quite a lot of water available beyond the great lakes. Is there a reason freshwater can't be pulled from the mouths of great rivers like the St. Lawrence, the Columbia, and the Mississippi right before it reaches the sea? Is there a reason why flood control systems can't be built to sequester excess precipitation so that it can be reclaimed?
Choose your costs. You're going to spend energy one way or another, or you're going to sacrifice your quality of life(or potentially your life).
I don't see this as being a convincing argument against a nationwide hydro grid, just one of many tradeoffs.
Yes, very much so. So much, in fact, that there's a multinational treaty that says water in the Great Lakes cannot leave the Great Lakes watershed. It contains 90 percent of North America's freshwater. If other places start coming for water from outside, there's really nowhere else to look.
Can you explain this statement, because it doesn't make much sense to me. Are you saying that if we take some water from the watershed, there is therefore no other place to obtain water?
Our governments already spend absurd amounts of money subsidizing the property values of people who live in flood plains, in deserts, etc. It will be painful but the longer we spend trying to bandage the issue the harder it will be once it reaches the breaking point.
Wouldn't a network of canals and pipelines allow the country to be more secure and handle disasters more effectively?
Desalinating plus pumping water up to those places would be insanely expensive though. It's not economically feasible for the primary uses of fresh water (farming).
I'm really glad our ancestors had the foresight to build the national electrical grid and the national highway system because with an attitude like I'm seeing in this thread I think the folks today would just throw up their hands and say it's too big and too difficult.
No. The Colorado river is big. I mean really big. And we are using it all.
Sure the Mississippi has more than enough water, but the elevation of the source of the Mississippi (where you can walk across it) is a lot lower than most of the Colorado river. That means we need massive numbers of pumps to get that work to where it is needed. We can't afford that, either economically, or CO2.
But #2, the Great Lakes are effectively staying level right now. Pumping 14.8 maf/year out of the Great Lakes would eventually deplete those as well.
The Mississippi flow is 73.1 maf/year, but diverting 14.8 maf/year would result in catastrophic devastation to the surrounding ecosystem and other uses of the river.
Why would you need to pump out the equivalent of the CO river from the Great Lakes Basin?
Why would you need to pump out the equivalent of the CO river from the Mississippi river mouth?
I'm trying to sort through your straw men here. Maybe you can help me out. Why is the annual flow of the CO river an important number to you? Why does a single source of water need to make up for our current shortfall?
You can of course not pick a single source, but for napkin math it is easier. Also west of the Mississippi there is no left of water to take, so realistically the Mississippi is the closest water source.
I have a crazy dream of greening the Sahara with desalination plants.
This is talking about the facts on the ground today, not some projection of the future.
I don't know about your example or your source. When you refer to climate changes, you can't use one local sample as your proof.