Originally Posted by min-chi-cbus
Why don't people just start being smarter about how much they "need" and waste less resources, let it be water, electricity, land, or whatever. And DON'T live in a desert if you need water!!!
I get sick of hearing this common refrain - don't live in deserts - from people with no knowledge of or experience in water matters. Our desert communities are, by and large, also our most water efficient communities. Our most pressing drought concerns are in areas that are not, technically speaking, deserts. Like Atlanta.
As any westerner knows, we have more than enough water for our cities. Now, if you were to say, "DON'T grow crops in a desert if you need water," that would be a discussion worth having. But that's also not a discussion that's as cut-and-dry as bashing bluegrass lawns (which, of course, are not appropriate everywhere - but that's low-hanging fruit in the grand scheme of things; people switch away from lawn irrigation naturally once appropriate, cost-recovering water pricing is in place.) You upper-midwest folks still enjoy your off-season strawberries, me thinks. Agriculture is still the largest water user in every region (or nearly every) of the world. And the most vulnerable, too, although "rich" western countries hardly notice it as long as it only means importing food, which we can afford to pay for.
Desal has enormous downsides too, let's not forget those. (As for a discussion from a few pages back - distillation and reverse osmosis desalination are two different processes, both of which are incredibly energy-intensive. Energy intensive to the point that we're nowhere close to being able to produce enough power through renewable means if we start to see a large scale shift toward seawater desal. It is a large, growing, and measurable component of overall power consumption.) Take a look at salinity levels in the Persian Gulf for an indication of what our coastal areas could be facing long-term if we depend on large scale desal. The prospect of large scale desal in Australia is truly frightening. I don't know much about offshore currents in Australia, but let's keep the brine effluent off my good reef diving, shall we?
A note from Colorado on the ongoing rainwater harvesting discussion. It's illegal here, as it is in a number of areas around the country where western "prior appropriation" water law rules (usually described as "first in time, first in right"). Colorado has three pilot projects going now, which aim to measure how much actual depletion there is in stream return flows in a typical built-up area. Western water law typically says - you can't collect that rainwater because somebody somewhere already has a legal right to divert and use that water. The pilot project will measure how true that assumption is. But I don't expect much change in practice - every senior user in the state would run off to water court, and the supreme court would have a mighty difficult time coming up with a constitutionally acceptable alternative framework. (Water in Colorado is a constitutionally protected property right, and administered through a separate set of water courts, water commissioners, etc. with direct appeals to the state supreme court.)
I personally think that Colorado's unique system works pretty well - it keeps the ugliest bits of water management largely out of the political sphere. It's biggest weakness has been as inability to reserve water for non-human uses, but we resolved that with the creation of a state commission that buys, holds, and "owns" water rights on behalf of mother nature. Interestingly, that same commission (the Colorado Water Conservation Board) also manages the state's "weather modification program." Plenty of info on that, and cloud seeding in general, here (for Don - there is real data out there): http://cwcb.state.co.us/water-manage...onProgram.aspx