It was about 1970 that I recall Secretary of Agriculture Butz saying that water would become the limiting factor of our future. Many of us thought it was a ridiculous statement. The US is not the only country that has perfected the concept of “kicking the can down the road.”
The latest news reports that in India, a city of 10 million has NO water. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the Ladakh region, run off from the Himalayan Mountains provides water for the area. In the southern city of Chennai, a population of 10 million, gets its water from trucks now. This region also provides about 1/3 of the country’s food. So India’s problem is caused by population growth, climate change and mismanagement. But, could such a mess happen to the US?
The Colorado river provides water for seven Western States. The usage allowed was defined in the 1922 Colorado River Compact and based on a 1910s-era of water flow, unknown at the time was that the flow used for allocation was at an all time high in that year. So now water flow attributed to the various states in California is based on ancient numbers. Initially the unused water could be used by the remaining states, that temporarily drew more than was allowed in their original sharing structure.
Not only does California have a problem so does the rest of the country in form of the Ogallala Aquifer. I recall living near Chicago when I worked as a civil engineer. We were doing work with water issues and I discovered, amazingly enough, that the underground water came from the Minnesota area, the Ogallala Aquifer. Later I learned how massive the Ogallala Aquifer is, it covers the states of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. In recent years when I fly over that region, I can see the massive circular patterns of alfalfa fields which use a heck of a lot of water. I recently learned that the whole Ogallala Aquifer has been depleted by 2/3 of it’s original capacity.
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We can witness the effect of over use. In the Coachella Valley area when I was farming I asked why there were water pumps 5 feet above ground. They told me “the land sinks as water is depleted from the under ground reservoir.” In Texas, I was told that the land sinks by over 10 feet.
What’s on the horizon, is that California has a shortage of water and the bread basket of the US, the Midwest, will have a shortage because of population growth and because no one is going to stop using it until it runs out.
Then we will have a problem like India – a shortage of food and water. So now we are leaving another problem to the Millennials and Generation Z because my generation isn’t doing anything. Only the next generation, the Millennials and Generation Z, can or will be able to rectify the situation. Referring to my “Ode To Millennials” and their ‘rendezvous with destiny’, they will become The Greatest Generation 2.0.
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