Protecting Our Water Resources Before It's Too Late

The Engineer in me believes we can conserve our water resources.

Protecting Our Water Resources Before It's Too Late
Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

Water. The vital natural resource that’s intertwined in every living thing around the world. Without it, we’ll die. Without access to clean water, we’ll get sick. Without access to a reliable and clean water source, we can’t survive as a civilization and we’re at the precipice of collapse. Protecting our water resources is imperative to our survival.

I don’t write stories of collapse lightly because I might get accused of being an alarmist or a conspiracy theorist. I write this from an empirical standpoint as a semi-retired civil engineer. Climate change is changing the weather because things are getting out of natural balance. Rising ocean temperatures push more water vapor into the air, and higher ambient temperature holds more water vapor. When clouds can’t hold all the excess water vapor it comes down as rain, and a lot of it fast.

We’re seeing high-intensity and short-duration storms that flash flood low-lying areas and erode water channels and banks. We’re seeing long-tail rainfall events happen with more frequency. In other words, expect more extreme weather and damage as the planet heats up.

Yes, this is all grim and scary for humans and the ecosystems we rely on to live, but the earth doesn’t care. The heating earth is out of balance and this extreme weather is just the way for the earth to come back into balance. It’ll be here long after we’re dead and gone, and that's the real question. Do we even deserve the earth in the first place and be allowed to live on it?

Drought in Spain

My partner celebrated a milestone birthday this year and we decided to take a 15-day trip to Portugal, Spain, and Italy as low-key travelers. We had a lovely time and lived out of two small carry-on suitcases. We traveled light, used mass transportation for the majority of the trip, and walked. Boy, did we walk a lot.

From the moment we stepped onto Portuguese soil we noticed that everything was very dry. We expected things to dry out as we headed south from Porto since the northern part of Portugal is in a subtropical oceanic climate zone and Lisbon is in a Mediterranean climate zone, but it was dry all over.

When we got to Spain, things were considerably worse. The southern part of Spain was still in a severe drought. Barcelona and the Catalunya region of Spain were rationing water and all public fountains and beach showers were shut off.

Granted we only stayed in the Barcelona area, but this drought was wreaking havoc across Spain's key farming and ecological areas. It was getting so bad that citizens were getting upset at tourists flying in and consuming more water than an average citizen in Barcelona.

The people of Spain are in a bad spot. They need access to fresh clean water to grow food and support their population and it’s starting to run out. No wonder there's a creeping sentiment to send all tourists back home.

Tourist Go Home, (c) Author

American water resources

I live in a normally water-abundant area of New Jersey, yet my well started to run dry a few years ago. This upset my view that “we’ll be ok, we’ll always have water” fairy tale.

A report I reviewed for critical habitat in my town indicated that our residents are pumping out more water from our aquifer than what’s replenished. This is happening all around the United States, especially in the West where access to water is harder to come by and is often “locked up” by the rich.

We’re seeing the Great Salt Lake drying up because the natural runoff from the Rockies is being diverted. It’s not just the Great Lake but the Mississippi and Colorado Rivers are suffering too.

Our natural resources are being diverted and used up, leaving nothing for flora and fauna to survive on.

So what can we do? There are standard and simple things everyone can do, just be thrifty and conserve water. These are the usual "don't shower for 10 minutes" or "fix leaks quickly," but the biggest thing we can do is lobby Congress to pass legislation to help reduce total water consumption across the USA.

Although outdated, the USGS published in 2015 that four states - California, Texas, Idaho, and Florida, - consume more than 25% of all our surface fresh water (and some saltwater) for various needs. One can only assume that water consumption rose from 2015 to the present time.

This pie chart from USGS highlights the daily billion-gallon consumption by industry in 2015.

(c) USGS

I can't help but wonder if there are processes ripe to be modified/adjusted to conserve water in just one of those industries. Imagine a 10% water use reduction in Thermoelectric energy production or just irrigation with better technology.

The Engineer in me believes that this can be done, it just requires a will and legislation. Why? I never met a corporation that did the altruistic thing willingly unless it coincided with maximizing shareholder wealth. You make it a law and a sharp penalty structure and corporations will fall in line.

The problem is the "will." There is no desire to change anything in Congress related to environmental issues because the American population keeps voting for insane candidates. Candidates that believe in Jewish space lasers and rolling back environmental protections like the Clean Water Act.

Fortunately, some of these protections have been put back into place, but every election puts these key laws and acts into the crosshairs of some political lunatic.

End notes

The moral of this story is that we're all in this together. Access to clean water is critical for all life, not just business. As citizens of a global community, we all need to press forward for sustainable and clean water practices across the board. It doesn't matter if you're a farmer in India or a guy in Texas. We need to do better to protect our water resources, here in America and beyond.