”At least 36 states will face water shortages within five years.”

From the Associated Press, via Huffington Post:

The government projects that at least 36 states will face water shortages within five years because of a combination of rising temperatures, drought, population growth, urban sprawl, waste and excess.

“Is it a crisis? If we don’t do some decent water planning, it could be,” said Jack Hoffbuhr, executive director of the Denver-based American Water Works Association.

“We’ve hit a remarkable moment,” said Barry Nelson, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The last century was the century of water engineering. The next century is going to have to be the century of water efficiency.”

The price tag for ensuring a reliable water supply could be staggering. Experts estimate that just upgrading pipes to handle new supplies could cost the nation $300 billion over 30 years.

“Unfortunately, there’s just not going to be any more cheap water,” said Randy Brown, Pompano Beach’s utilities director.

I vote that we call it Peak Water – there is still freshwater to be had, but the cheap and easy stuff is pretty well gone, and to get the rest we need (recycling, desalination) will cost a shed-load of money.

In this, as per a conversation with a colleague yesterday, it would seem that Australia has (had?) the opportunity to take their drought and make lemonade (water-less lemonade). Rather than just, say, moaning about Ethanol mandates, squabbling over river allocation/referral powers or cooking up publicly-underwritten boondoggle projects.

We’re like the drought New York: if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. A decent Apollo-type project, with the likes of the CSIRO and anybody else who wanted to join in, could have pursued every good idea for getting freshwater to keep up with the population (including agriculture).

In the US, the government could chop the legs off of all those idiot farm subsidies and fund quite a bit of such research – benefitting farmers greatly, at the other end. Desalination is a phenomenally expensive – and energy-intensive – ‘solution’. It would behove the US, who has some 280 million more people than Australia anyway, to work now on that ounce of prevention, because there really are no cures for running out of water (particularly where agriculture and eco-systems are concerned).

Just beware – the first thing the government will (usually) try to do is privatise anything that doesn’t run away on sight. This is not a problem that any government gets to pretend it isn’t supposed to be solving. It is exactly the sort of problem that a government is supposed to be solving.

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