Peak Water: Until Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Syzygys, Jul 9, 2012.

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  1. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

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    Since my peak oil and peak coal threads got pretty popular, I thought why not make a triple whammy and educate/scare you with the disappearance of one of the most important things for life.

    Yes, Dorothy, we are not watering in Kansas anymore and yes, there is actually such a thing as peak water (in the USA).

    I have just read a distressing article in Harper's magazine about this topic, and if you feel suicidal, please don't hesitate to read it at:

    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/07/0083968

    (well, you have to pay, but anyway, this is what this thread is based on)

    Wait a minute, you may say, I thought water is a replenishable resource. Rain falls down, irrigate plants, evaporates and goes up in the air, from where it falls down again. How can we run out of it then???

    The answer is simple: we aren't just using rainwater for drinking, industry and irrigation, but we also mine (so to speak) water from so called aquifers. Those are huge and old deposits of water underground. The biggest in the USA is the :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala_Aquifer

    Now this water has been in the same place for million of years in some cases, and they tend to be NOT replenishable. Once you use it up, it is gone forever.
    The size of Ogallala is HUGE, it spreads out over 8 states and would cover Kansas (including Dorothy) and Nebraska together.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala_Aquifer#Change_in_groundwater_storage

    "Change in groundwater storage

    The USGS estimated that total water storage was about 2,925,000,000 acre feet (3,608 km3) in 2005. This is a decline of about 253,000,000 acre feet (312 km3) or 9% since substantial ground-water irrigation development began, in the 1950s.

    Water conservation practices (terracing and crop rotation), more efficient irrigation methods (center pivot and drip), and simply reduced area under irrigation have helped to slow depletion of the aquifer, but levels are generally still dropping."

    The Wiki article does mention water levels increasing in some more humid areas but the Harper's article really paints a dark picture. And it might be possible for an aquifer to refill very slowly, but if we are using the water up fast, a slow refill rate isn't going to help us...

    Related issue: If you take a short trip to Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, you will see a wide ( I think 10 feet) white line around the water level. That is the sign of the missing water from the reservoir. There are huge figths for the remaining water and I think just about 110% of it is spoken for.

    Fun facts: In the Western US, the head of the water commission, who decides who gets how much water, has the right and power to overrule the President of the USA. That just shows you how important this little wet substance is...
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
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  3. Rhaedas Valued Senior Member

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    If we were a space faring civilization...

    But since we're not there yet...yeah, usable water is a problem, and it seems almost ironic, given that there's so much of it around, yet we can't use most of it directly. Maybe a peak water situation would fuel more development in desalinization and recycling programs, more than we devote now.

    And of course, once we can bring a few cometary bodies around. Although that raises the question...is unprocessed comet water safe to drink?
     
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  5. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

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    Just found this article, apparently this issue causes sea-level change:

    http://www.nature.com/news/source-found-for-missing-water-in-sea-level-rise-1.10676

    "Time of reckoning

    Depletion of groundwater reserves has more than doubled in recent decades as a result of population growth and the increased demand on groundwater reservoirs for drinking water and the irrigation of croplands. Most of the water pumped up from deep pools is not replenished; it evaporates into the air or flows into river channels, feeding into the seas. Artificial reservoirs, such as the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River and the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China, have the opposite effect, locking up water that would otherwise flow into the seas. Scientists once speculated that the effects cancelled each other out, but this study and other recent ones have shown that groundwater depletion has a larger net effect."

    The white line used to be water covered at Lake Meade:

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    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
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  7. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

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    There's still the entire oceans full of water although they will need to find better ways of desalinizing that water before humans can use it. We can use salt water and already do use it in many places even though it does cost more, people just use less, which is good. So no worry about running out of drinking water or for that much any types of water to be used but be prepared to pay more for it. They will eventually find cheaper ways to get the salt out of sea water which will bring costs down but that might take awhile.

    Desalination:

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...xJnEBg&usg=AFQjCNGMpNatRz3Z0PN7Tu2egTk1THJxgg
     
  8. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    It's going to be peak EVERYTHING, friends. Peak water, oil, minerals, food, and eventually population.
     
  9. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

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    So again, we are talking about substitutes. I kind of have a problem seeing irrigating Kansas with seawater, but hey, maybe my imagination isn't as good as others'.
     
  10. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

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    True, unfortunately we have reached lots of peaks already but population isn't supposed to peak until 2040 or so. My guess is that we very are lucky if we reach that without a major war. That would put a dump on population growth...
     
  11. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

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    There's a pipeline that is in Alaska that sends oil over 1000 miles through it so why can't they build a pipeline from California or the Gulf of Mexico to Kansas and send them water if they need it?:shrug:
     
  12. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    Expensive water means no water in a future with limited capital availability.
     
  13. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Easier to use the Missouri River I would think.
     
  14. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

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    Well, let's compare oil and water usage for a start.... Then let's compare the price of those two....

    See the differences??? A relative small amount but expensive stuff is economical to transfer by pipe. Lots of cheap, not so much... But it is not just the transportation but the making of the fresh water too...
     
  15. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    Actually, the real truth about the water supply is that there's plenty of it. And yes, I *am* talking about fresh water.

    And the real problem is simply that it's in the wrong place and generally at the wrong time. As to the wrong place, consider the BILLIONS of gallons of water in the Great Lakes of the U.S. and Canada (that flows into the Atlantic each year) compared to the needs of the Midwest and Western states of the U.S.

    As to the wrong times, There are several *major* floods Across the U.S. every single year. We simply don't have the infrastructure to control and detain/retain all that excess water nor to redirect it to where it's needed.

    And yes, it would be expensive, but building a pipeline from the Great Lakes to Kansas is entirely possible. It's just that the needs and attention aren't yet great enough to make it worthwhile.

    And what about injection wells to recharge the aquifers during times of excess water? Same problem as with the pipeline above.
     
  16. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

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    Build that pipeline to tap the Great Lakes and there are a lot of us out here that will cheerfully blow great big holes in it until you give it up.

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    Besides, that would violate an international treaty between Canada and all of the Great Lakes States. We have a hard enough time catching those semi - secret tankers from the Middle East that sneak out shiploads of Great Lakes fresh water to sell over there, Russian trawlers dumping invasive species into the lakes in their bilge water and preventing those Asian carp from getting into the lakes proper from river shipping lanes.

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    You want to live in the desert, do with less water. Consider not building any more golf courses to water, drop the grass lawns and flashy outdoor fountains, water parks and fake waterfalls. In a word - "conserve" the resource rather than just find someplace else to take it from.
     
  17. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

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    Good idea about using the river to get the water from instead of the Pacific or Gulf of Mexico but I only brought them up if there were no more fresh water to use . I agree to also limit the golf courses that use excessive amounts of water to keep them green or insist upon Xeriscaping that use little to no water at all with any new golf course.

    Here's another pet peeve I have with developers always selling pool homes. There should be a way to stop so many pools from being installed within a new or old community.

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  18. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

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    The problem is that even when you have plenty, if you apply continuous consumption to it, eventually it will run down. I will run the numbers on a pipeline, but it is most likely not economical, otherwise someone would have come up with it already.

    My guess is that it would cost too much, making the plants prohibitively expensive....
     
  19. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    Well, of course! But not for probably hundreds of years. You're ignoring two very important facts: First, one that I already mentioned - the billions and billions of gallons that simply flow into the Atlantic, essentially just wasted.

    The second is the THOUSANDS of square miles of watershed that feed the lakes!

    Precisely what I said - the need isn't yet great enough to make it worth the cost. The operative word there is "YET."
     
  20. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

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    Most of that water is contaminated by farm land run offs, storm water run offs and other contaminated waste that gets dumped into most rivers and streams today. If you would do a pollution count on the discharge of the Mississippi River where it flows out into the Gulf of Mexico I'd bet you'd see a very high pollution count but who's doing that?:shrug:
     
  21. 1nf1del Registered Member

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    The Colorado River could be a viable water source for part of Kansas, and I'm sure they could divert runoff from the Rockies. Desalinization is also another viable source, Earths surface is 70% water, don't be fooled by what people who want to profit are telling you!
     
  22. 1nf1del Registered Member

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    You know that in more populated areas where what comes out of the tap is city water is the same water that gets cleaned and purified and used over and over again?
     
  23. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

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    No it couldn't. Did you miss the picture posted above showing 10 feet missing water from the river's reservoir???

    Possible yes, viable, no. Run the numbers. If it was economical, somebody would be doing it already...
     
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