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Thread: Water Discussion for the West

  1. #1
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Water Discussion for the West

    As a planner in the Pacific Northwest, I see huge opportunities for this area to someday distribute water to the parched Southwest. There are obvious environmental, economic, etc. factors and would like to hear your take on the viability of this notion.

  2. #2

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    You better wait a while on climate change before you decide how much spare water there is in the PNW. One only has to drive over the pass eastward to find a land of long recent droughts.

    And as for exporting water, all that does is encourage more unsustainable development in places that ought to be learning to live within their water budget.

  3. #3

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    Nice Thought, But....

    Quote Originally posted by plankton
    As a planner in the Pacific Northwest, I see huge opportunities for this area to someday distribute water to the parched Southwest. There are obvious environmental, economic, etc. factors and would like to hear your take on the viability of this notion.
    I see a bunch of environmental and economic issues which could only be overcome by some sort of super-regional govenrnmental entity or better yet, give the execution of the project to the private sector!

    Still, though, you end up subsidizing behaviors which should have been curtailed a long time ago. Example: The Colorado River watershed is in the grips of the worst drought in years. What's the response from the municipalities in greater Phoenix? They still don't have watering restrictions.

    Go figure

  4. #4
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by plankton
    As a planner in the Pacific Northwest, I see huge opportunities for this area to someday distribute water to the parched Southwest. There are obvious environmental, economic, etc. factors and would like to hear your take on the viability of this notion.
    On the surface I really don't care if you folks in the PNW want to send your water to the Southwest but, NIMBY stay away from the Great Lakes. There has been discussions about sending Great Lakes water to the SW. I sure hope that never happens. You choose to live where you choose and you should accecpt the living conditions there, water or no water.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I'm with Lee. Water should never be diverted from one shed to another.

  6. #6
    spokanite's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by plankton
    As a planner in the Pacific Northwest, I see huge opportunities for this area to someday distribute water to the parched Southwest. There are obvious environmental, economic, etc. factors and would like to hear your take on the viability of this notion.
    I say keep it where it's at. Over here in Spokane we're to the point of mining our sole-source aquifer. During the summer months Spokane uses something like 6x the amount of water that Seattlites do. That's a bit excessive, but so are huge expansive lawns, and USING POTABLE WATER to keep them green.

    However, if you begin to think about exports in Washington State, I believe that we're the most trade-dependent state in the nation. So in a sense all of our crop exports are, in a sense, exporting or distributing our water.

    The problem IMHO is that people around here think we have an endless supply. We have sickeningly cheap water rates here in the Inland Northwest.
    Last edited by spokanite; 29 Jul 2004 at 4:17 PM.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    transfering of water from one basin to another is not easy, it requires a permit from the EPA etc. I think in most cases its a BAD IDEA (tm)

    I worked for a City in NC that had to do this becouse we pretty much ran out of water for a while. But long range its not wise.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Desalination

    I see a future, much like Blade Runner that includes HUGE :-0 Desalination plants on the west coast pumping out billions of gallons of water each into massive pipelines running into the hinterlands.....Fully irrigated bannana/pineapple :-P plantations in the mohave and central Nevada...and residential owners willing to pay 25c to $1 a gallon for their water.....Hmm...move over Philip K. Dick....time for me to write a sci-fi novela....ha ha ha .....would avoid the basin problem, but not the having gigantic industrial plants on the ocean problem...ha ha ha....
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  9. #9
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    /So far it looks like there's wide ranging support for the idea of exporting water/[sarcasm]

    I see a recurring theme in the responses that unsustainable develoment should not be rewarded, or bailed out, by gaining water from other waterheds. I agree whole heartedly (I am an Oregon planner for crying out loud) but, BUT, BUT would not areas such as mine (coastal rainforest with 70" avg. yearly rainfall) be wise to at least explore the idea of floating water down south (on our terms) before the federal government makes us do it anyway? Am I being paranoid?

    Maybe I'm alone in thinking that the federal government could require such a thing, but, considering water becomes unavailable to thousands, if not millions of households in the SW in the next 50-100 years (sooner?), what happens to the residents, and the substantial investments in infrastructure, in regions like PHO, LV, LA, etc.? Is it just not our problem if we don't live there? "They dug their own grave" kind of thing? If so, as much as the lawns that are "too large to mow & too large to grow" bother me as well, I just can't see other regions that may have excess capacity being allowed to simply turn their backs.....

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Historically, there have been a number of civilizations that were based on the long-range diversion of water to distant parts of the empire. Off the top of my head, I am thinking there are examples in South America and it was a recurrent theme in India or thereabouts. In South America, geological movement (earhquakes, slippage along faults, upward movement along the coast) made the system effectively serve less and less land. If I recall correctly, the end of their complex water system was the end of their civilization. And my recollection is that dynasties in India rose up and fell based on their ability to run the complex water distribution system: those that could, rose and those that couldn't fell. It seems like it was pretty cyclical.

    There are certain things in nature that human innovation has never overcome. One of those is that when you bring water to a desert for the purpose of making it "bloom" (with agricultural crops), you inevitably face salinization of the soil. All water contains some minerals, including salts (well, unless it is distilled or something). The drier the climate, the more evaporation. The more evaporation, the more concentrated the minerals become and the water gets increasingly salty. This applies both to the water that must travel a long distance to the place it is irrigating and to water put on the ground for irrigating crops, etc. -- Ie the canal water gets increasingly salty, the further it travels, and in hot, dry climates irrigation water evaporates at high rates, causing what water is on the ground to be saltier.

    I really do not understand why humans feel the need to engage in such high maintenance and fragile solutions anyway when there are more reliable, lower-cost solutions (and I don't just mean "money"). There are small-scale farming methods for growing crops in the desert using the natural water-retaining qualities of loam and specially designed landscaping to capture the rainwater and sustain a fruit tree (or whatever) through the dry season. Earthships only require something like 10 to 14 inches of precipitation per year to sustain a household. Vernacular architecture (something sort of out of style these days in the U.S.) is less resource-intensive than importing your materials from god-knows-where to build whatever style suits your fancy.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Maybe I'm alone in thinking that the federal government could require such a thing, but, considering water becomes unavailable to thousands, if not millions of households in the SW in the next 50-100 years (sooner?), what happens to the residents,
    They move. Or at least, many of them will, to areas that have more water. A few of the biggest and most entrenched dry-land cities (LA, SD, Denver--which is smaller but older and wetter than PHX) will remain at something like their present size, getting by with a combination of more efficient water usage and imports. Others will be allowed to shrink. I don't think there will be enough Southwestern votes to overcome the combined opposition of other regions to force other regions to send much water long-distance.

    By then much of the infrastructure will be due for repair/replacement anyway, and whatever isn't upgraded to handle a smaller pop. or reduced water use will be recycled, or junked until recycling it becomes feasible. The people who stay in the dry areas will have little choice but to use water more efficiently. Water-efficient farming, building, and industrial practices, such as the techniques MZ mentioned, or recycling of cleaned wastewater back into city water supplies, will become more common, especially those if someone finds a way to make them convenient or profitable.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerGirl
    I worked for a City in NC that had to do this becouse we pretty much ran out of water for a while. But long range its not wise.

    Did Greensboro finally "steal" water from the Pee Dee basin? I was in Rockingham a long time ago, and everyone was against the idea (except Greensboro people).

  13. #13
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by B'lieve
    They move. Or at least, many of them will, to areas that have more water.....The people who stay in the dry areas will have little choice but to use water more efficiently. Water-efficient farming, building, and industrial practices, such as the techniques MZ mentioned, or recycling of cleaned wastewater back into city water supplies, will become more common, especially those if someone finds a way to make them convenient or profitable.
    Thanks, that's the kind of response I was seeking. We all know exporting water from one basin to another is not a good idea, but until now, I wasn't conviced that it wouldn't happen. Your analysis sounds logical and reasonable to me. Once again the cyburbian community has satisfied my urge to know more. 8-|

  14. #14
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    On the surface I really don't care if you folks in the PNW want to send your water to the Southwest but, NIMBY stay away from the Great Lakes. There has been discussions about sending Great Lakes water to the SW. I sure hope that never happens. You choose to live where you choose and you should accecpt the living conditions there, water or no water.
    That's exactly what I was going to say

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    yes Mike I dont recall what the other basin was but there is now a large pipe going from Winston to Greensboro (only to be used after water falls below a set amount) and one from some where north of the City I cant recall where. All this was done after the City had something to the tune of 45 days left in its supply. VERY scary indeed.

    Right now they are building a huge lake down south of the City but it should have been started soon but the local politicos refused to belive a city could run out of water-but it did!
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  16. #16
    Cyburbian plankton's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SW MI Planner
    That's exactly what I was going to say
    Wow, feeling a little entitled to that lake water, are ya? Don't worry, about half us living out here came this direction to get away from the water in the east I'm just kidding, geez....

  17. #17
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    On the surface I really don't care if you folks in the PNW want to send your water to the Southwest but, NIMBY stay away from the Great Lakes. There has been discussions about sending Great Lakes water to the SW. I sure hope that never happens. You choose to live where you choose and you should accecpt the living conditions there, water or no water.
    There is an international treaty is already in place that prevents Great Lakes water from being piped to places outside of the watershed that were not so served before the treaty was ratified. This has been a big problem in metro Milwaukee as the Lake Michigan-Mississippi River divide (the 'Eastern Continental Divide') runs north-south through the eastern Waukesha County suburbs, bisecting several suburban municipalities, and the heavily developed area west of the divide is having ground water problems. A solution might be in within sight there, though, the latest proposal is to pipe as much or more treated wastewater east as fresh Lake Michigan water is piped west.

    Most of the non-Great Lakes watershed places that are 'grandfathered' in under that treaty are Chicago suburbs.

    Mike

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    Energy Use

    I agree with the foregoing dissection of the relatively unsustainable proposition of exporting water. Energy use wasn't specifically identified by anyone as one of the reasons why the exportation of water is not sustainable, so I thought I would throw it in.

    Energy consumption is also a major cost in desalination TO, so IMO you should write a couple of Oil Sheikhs into your novel.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rem
    Energy consumption is also a major cost in desalination TO, so IMO you should write a couple of Oil Sheikhs into your novel.
    And it generates a lot of "heat pollution".

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    On the surface I really don't care if you folks in the PNW want to send your water to the Southwest but, NIMBY stay away from the Great Lakes. There has been discussions about sending Great Lakes water to the SW. I sure hope that never happens. You choose to live where you choose and you should accecpt the living conditions there, water or no water.
    Ditto. I'm not exactly one to agree with ELF, but I think the Edward Abbey my parents programmed me with will kick in the day they open a pipeline from the great lakes to Las Vegas. (Unless, of course, Canada decides to launch an airstrike on the pipeline first. Uh, yeah. Moving on.)

    My own feeling is that we in the wet states are being nearly as irresponsible with our water as the folks in the dry states are with theirs. Our wells may be wetter, but it's still a bad idea to poison them--or, more literally, using a gallon of drinking water to flush a pint of urine is silly regardless of what state you live in. So, much as I look forward gleefully to the day when the southwest's reckless neglect of carrying capacity catches up to them and they come slinking back to the wet parts of the country, it only takes a quick look around my own home to put me back in my place.

  21. #21
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Most places that think they have enough water to export eventually find that they need that water for local use. The normal time frame for this realization is 50-100 years.

  22. #22

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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    And it generates a lot of "heat pollution".
    And localized salt problems

  23. #23
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    So the robo toilet I orderd for 5 G's isn't low water use?

    We have a new neighbor from.....(surprise) the south that doesn't know a thing about low water usage. He was talking about removing the ugly cactuses in his yard for something greener. Uhh look around man, their isn't much green in the desert. If you need green, check your wallet or move outta the desert!

  24. #24
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Water transfers are not a good idea. More and more in the West we are seeing large cities buying the water rights from irrigation companies in other watersheds and transferring the water rights to the cities, to offset their water needs of a growing.

    Especially in the West people have to live with the water in their area. Essentially it comes to buying water and depriving another watershed of its water, which is needed not only for the people there but also for the native flora and fauna.

    It is a bad idea to transport water from one watershed to another. Among outher things you could end up tranporting with the water plants and animals foreign to the intorduced area which might create havoc in their environments. Algae, fish eggs, plant bits could easily pass along. We already have enough trouble with introduced species, both intentional and unintentional.

    If your city doesn't have enough water to serve its people, the city either has to institute water conservation measures or encourage people not to move there.

    Cities using water from other watersheds are not vibrant cities. They are parasites.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  25. #25
          roger's avatar
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    The underlying problem here is that water in most places is grossly underpriced, which encourages over-consumption (think of all the golf courses in PHX). That doesn't just go for the desert SW. Even Florida has water problems. If water were priced more closely to what it is worth, I guarantee you'd see more conservation and efficiency.

    I agree that pumping water to another shed is generally a bad idea. Communities need to solve their water problems for themselves.

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