I took this picture an hour ago in the city of Gilbert, Arizona, a suburb of the capital, Phoenix. Here is where Phoenix lies with respect to the eastern boundary of the desert in Arizona (the red line represents US Highway 191):
It is obvious that the city and the state have diverted water from elsewhere and used it here. What happens to the ‘elsewhere’? Where does the water come from to provide the citizens of Gilbert, AZ, with such a lovely park (one that my great-granddaughter visits often)?
Aqueducts in Arizona (source):
- Arizona Canal
- Central Arizona Project(Granite Reef Aqueduct)
- Consolidated Canal
- Gila Gravity Canal
- Grand Canal (Arizona)
- South Canal (Arizona)
- Tempe Canal
- Western Canal (Arizona)
One result of this diversion can be seen in ‘Groundwater decline and depletion’ (US Geological Survey):
John Gray, in his book Straw Dogs (which book I highly recommend for many reasons) notes:
If you want to understand twenty-first-century wars, forget the ideological conflicts of the twentieth century… Future wars will be fought over dwindling resources.
And what resource could be more important than water?
10 Violent International Water Conflicts
Interstate water wars are heating up along with the climate
Observation and question:
We have lawns and golf courses and swimming pools and man-made lakes in the desert. How long can we maintain this lifestyle until the water table and water from elsewhere can no longer support it, physically and politically?
Interesting observatons, Ron.You ask “How long can we maintain this lifestyle until the water table and water from elsewhere can no longer support it, physically and politically?” No doubt I’m wrong, but here’s my answer, for what it’s worth.
All material resources are scarce. Some are scarcer than others. People have devised a mechanism for coping with scarcity. It is called the free market, with a network of prices driven by supply and demand. This system evolved naturally over thousands of years. So long as it is allowed to function without too much bureaucratic interference, it will almost certainly permit Arizona to cope with the difficulty of shrinking aquifers. If water becomes too expensive, some people will decide to move elsewhere, lessening the demands made upon the aquifer. If people decide to stay even in the face of rising prices, entrepreneurs will spot a profit opportunity and figure out how to supply more water as cheaply as possible, thus driving the price down a bit.
Fresh water is an essentially inexhaustible resource. It is constantly evaporating from the ocean, and falling as rain and snow upon the land. Worldwide this averages about 1 meter of precipitation per annum. The ocean covers 71% of the earth’s surface, and it is about 3,700 meters deep, on average. So there is enough water in the ocean to supply rainfall at the “natural” rate for about 2,600 years,,even if all the rain and snow were to be impounded on (or under) the land somehow.
Since only minuscule quantities of water vapor can possibly escape earth’s gravitational field, and since essentially all the rain and snow that falls eventually flows back into the sea, you can rest assured that future techbnological advances will enable man to increase annual precipitation totals to meet the demand for fresh water, if the price of fresh water starts to increase significantly. Malthusian prophecies of doom are no match for man’s entrepreneurial spirit. If there’s enough money to be made, engineers will construct the necessary apparatus somehow or other. That’s just who we are. Necessity is the mother of invention.
I won’t, but perhaps you will live long enough to verify your perception. I don’t have the expertise, yet I feel that the ‘free market’ is really not free, what with government interference (with preferences) and regulation (again, with preferences). And, given that there is a significant positive correlation in the size of an organization (including Gov’t) and it’s level of stupidity.
A profound (Pavellas) perspective, thank you Ron, and for me more so given you wrote this while on your road trip. As a boy I was fascinated by the way the San people of the Southern African desert and arid areas managed their scarce water resources, especially the use of ostrich eggs to store and carry water. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_people
And a thanks to you for the comment. I am reminded of the book by Paul Theroux, ‘Dark Star Safari’ (wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Star_Safari). He revisited East Africa after many years and made this assessment (among many others)–(from my memory) the people who remained in the bush, instead of migrating to the cities, remained self-sufficient through droughts and other natural phenomena, and generally fared much better than the urbanites.
We don’t live in a free market. It’s socialism for the rich and privileged populations with privatized benefits and externalized costs. Our present big government is owned and operated on behalf of big biz, such as government policies that redirect so much water to big ag in California. We live in a banana republic that operates according to inverted totalitarianism.
No aspect of that is sustainable, even ignoring the suicidal self-destruction of resource depletion, environmental degradation, and mass extinction. When natural resources are privatized, there is no possibility of personal or public responsibility because the costs are externalized onto others, often deferred onto future generations.
Anyone with a lick of sense can see this. But there are many who don’t want to see it because it makes them feel uncomfortable.
I agree on all points.
How long? Until the rain stops falling (which it has already) or the food runs out (which it hasn’t, owing to corporate farming) or food prices skyrocket (which always gets Americans’ attention – witness gas). Interesting reading as always, Ron, I hope you’re enjoying your trip!
Thanks for the comment, Gary. As for whether I’m enjoying the trip, judge for yourself by staying tuned to https://ronsjournal.com
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