Whisky’s for drinkin’…desal’s for fightin’
April 1, 2009 § 6 Comments
….Compton Creek used to run a good stream the year around and the wells would flow the year around, and he remembers one well that was so strong it would throw water about forty feet high. Water does not flow now only in the winter time or when they stop pumping in the beg(sic) wells… – James P. Reagan, describing an interview with George Haylock of Compton, CA, 1914.
Well, James & George, you’d never know it by how we manage water today. Your generation oversaw the the depletion of our
local aquifers, and the one after you saw Owens Lake go dry. Mine has watched our resource-consumptive lifestyles drain rivers even further afield; in our name (if not strictly our need) the salmon fisheries collapsed. And yet we stand at a crossroads, seeing in the ocean opportunity, and barely draw breath. Now would be a good time to pause, take stock of our actions, and contemplate what “need” really constitutes for us humans.
For once again, the voices of reason have insisted that we “need” desal. Enviros who object are resisting technology and refusing to reckon with the “reality” that we need more water.
The author of this piece believes we must face the difficult choices. I too believe in difficult choices, just not the ones promoted by him. Indeed I don’t think it’s a “difficult choice” to perpetuate our current water-wasting lifestyle through the enablement of desalinated water – no, that’s politics and catering to our sense of entitlement. How about bringing our water consumption to a comparable level as that found in Barcelona, Spain, or Queensland, Australia (+/-40 gals/person/day)? Considering our current consumption is 100+ gals/person/day (as high as 400-600 is some Southern California communities) we would see a significant benefit. I would rather we exhaust simple solutions first before moving up to these more expensive and impactful technologies.
To say we’ll only lose a few fish with desal is dismissive. Even minor increases in salinity will dramatically decrease the hatching of grunion eggs, for example. Have we adequately studied what else might be impacted by subtle changes in the ocean’s chemistry? History shows that we usually act first, regret later.
Contrary to the author’s statement, historical ecology buffs know that coastal Southern California was not a desert. Hundreds of miles of waterways plumped LA’s aquifers every year. The region’s water tables were once high, but profligate water consumption & urban development, without regard for the ecosystem, altered our landscape – desertified it, if you will. As evidenced above, in one man’s lifetime.
As a native of Southern California, I challenge all of us to face the reality of our impacts to our ecosystem and make the difficult choice to learn to live within its means. True, that may be harder than disparaging environmentalists who think it is achievable. But we are talking about the difficult choices here, right?
Have we ever regretted a course of action that preserved our natural resources, our landscapes – our ocean?
But regret we have, the consequences of so many of these water resource battles that have been won so that you and I can have a lawn.
Pass the whisky.