Monday, April 21, 2008

The US nears the limits of its water supplies

Shiney Varghese of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, in Alternet: … Today, in many parts of the U.S. we are nearing the limits of our water supplies. And that is getting our attention. The writing has been on the wall for some time. The private sector has been showing much interest in water as a source of profit, and water privatization has been an issue in many parts of the country.

The failure in public water systems has indeed been a contributing factor for this interest. In many cities, consumers have been organizing and opposing the privatization of water utilities, because they have been concerned about affordability or deterioration in the quality of service.

… We are close to the limits of our water supplies. It is time for us to start thinking of this nation's susceptibility to these changes and disruptions and how to minimize our vulnerability to them. Barely three years ago in the wake of hurricane Katrina IATP's Mark Muller wrote: "The storm exposed some real vulnerability in the current agriculture system. As we recover from the tragedy of Katrina, we have an opportunity to rebuild and rethink how to strengthen agriculture, regional economies and the transportation and production infrastructure. He identified 10 areas of vulnerability exposed by Katrina, including energy, fertilizer, transportation markets for crops less dependent on inputs, CAFO regulation, on-farm water storage, valuing the commons and climate change."

…Legal judgments, such the recent case involving the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, are an attempt to reverse earlier actions by state and federal water managers that have damaged the water system. But much more is needed. As Peter Gleick of the California based Pacific Institute points out in a recent article: "While predictions of economic disaster arising from the Delta decision may come true, they don't have to. But it will take a re-evaluation of our ideas about water-use and politi- cal courage by the governor, Legislature and water users to have open and honest discussions about how to redesign our water system so that it is smart, efficient and sustainable."

This is true for the nation as a whole: here in this land of plenty, we need to rethink our policies regarding urban development, energy production, and most importantly our agriculture and food systems, in order to avert an environmental crisis that many countries are already in the grip of.

Dunes in Death Valley, photo by "Urban," Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2

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