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« CRS Report: 'EU Climate Action and Implications for the United States' | Main | TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary 23 - 29 May 2020 »

Thursday, 28 May 2020


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Upmanu Lall

A very nice article posted by Michael Campana who has done more serious work to put water on the net than any other human alive or dead.
I understand and agree with the assertions in the presentation as to the current and possible federal roles. However, I do have an alternate view.
Humanity has evolved around water - its role in all sectors is pervasive but taken for granted. As populations and per capita consumption grows, AND a changing climate portends increasing and persistent variability of extremes, it is inevitable that in many places reliance on renewable surface water and shallow groundwater sources will be stressed, and deep groundwater will emerge as a sovereign good or store that countries SHOULD want to protect, even if they dont really recognize that now. This is becoming evident to the Indian politicians nearly 20 years after I first started trying to make noise about it.
In any case, back to the good old USA. We have our own examples of the mounting importance of aging and failing infrastructure, including dams and levees, that we are not adequately investing in restoring and in many cases removing for good reasons. This highlights the importance of groundwater as a buffer for droughts. The rate and pace of groundwater depletion in certain pockets AND the pollution of groundwaters in others could become at least a regionally critical issue. Some states, e.g. Nebraska, Kansas, and Arizona, are ahead of others, e.g., California and Texas in starting to secure and control the local groundwater resource. Yet, as noted in the article I am responding to there is no national strategy and none in the offing.

We have efforts at national food security and national energy security. None for national water security or national climate security -- two that are inexorably related. We need to create a national water reserve, and the bulk of the national water reserve would come from deeper groundwater that is currently being mined. Of necessity, the national groundwater reserve would be spatially distributed and protected in quantity and quality. This would require a strategic federal initiative that the states may not like, but is a critical issue from a planning perspective. Based on paleoclimatic data there is a significant potential of continental scale droughts that may persist for a decade, unlike anything we saw in the past two centuries. We have no plan in place to deal with such a situation.
We have those on the left screaming climate change - a problem that needs to be addressed -- yet future scenarios are highly uncertain and distant -- and those on the right who are in a state of natural denial of what their opponents say. However, neither side should be able to dispute what we see in the US climate record of the last 700 or more years -- this is S that has happened and should be part of our planning and thinking.
This brings me back to groundwater. There is much talk of sustainability and resilience - wonderful concepts that are not always abstract. This is one of those cases, where if we did set up a national water reserve that was captured as a set of statewide distributed groundwater reservoirs with appropriate risk management principles that were agreed upon, we could look at a rosier future, sustainable and resilient -- at least for one piece of the pie that readers here care about.
Happy to engage in a discussion about how we do this, and to carry it as far as we need to. Without a doubt, some will scream FOOL! And if you do, I request that you characterize me at least as a Shakesperean fool! That will make me quite happy.

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