Monday, April 23, 2007

We're Probably a Self-Limiting Virus

A couple of replies to comments on the last post, seemed easier to go ahead and make a post of it.

A golf course in Seattle has to do with events in the Desert Southwest... how?

Um...that's the Wynn Las Vegas Golf course. Confusing isn't it?

When I lived in Phoenix we had *lots* of golf courses. Without fail, they were all watered with treated sewage ("greywater"), not with potable water. How do you think they keep the grass so green? (heh!).

That's something only recently being considered in Las Vegas. Golf takes in roughly $250 million annually in greens fees here so it's not something that's going to go away any time soon.

Then again, golf courses are far from our only problem:

LAS VEGAS -- Although households collectively consumed the most, the Clark County School District topped a list of the 100 largest water users in the Las Vegas area, followed by a pair of golf course facilities.

Area schools and support offices used 2.75 billion gallons last year, enough to cover more than 8,000 football fields with a foot of water, according to records released by the district and water agencies.

The school district was the valley's biggest single user in 2002, but golf courses and hotels accounted for two-thirds of the top 100 users.

The figures were provided as southern Nevada develops plans to cope with the drought, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Paulson said the district, the fastest growing school system in the nation, serves 277 schools with 1,800 acres of landscaping. Grass grows on about 1,500 acres. About 255,000 students and nearly 29,000 employees use district facilities.

Also, a lot of these developments have housing associations. If you offer to donate 10 trees and plant them, many of them wil;l be grateful for the greenery.

Housing associations are more often than not part of the problem. Even in dry, dusty Las Vegas many require lawns. One was sued recently for not allowing a homeowner to use artificial turf, the association lost the case.

I would suggest moving your ass out of the southwest before it dries up and you all come over here looking for water and shelter from the dust bowl. I personally find it incredibly stupid that people choose to live out in the middle of the desert, especially when getting water to those developments is harmful to the earth.

Sounds simple but as usual it isn't quite that simple. That could work out pretty well for the wealthy but for the majority of people who depend on things, it isn't as easy as snapping ones fingers and moving off to some damper climate. The southwest is where the job growth is and has been for quite some time. Even assuming one could forcibly relocate millions of people to "wetter" locations it would simply shift the problems. Where are all those people going to live, work, etc? How long do you think water resources in the new locations would hold up to a massive population influx?

In that event you could just as easily say people are stupid for living in areas prone to tornados or hurricanes....should we relocate everyone living in the midwest and in the southeast? Wisconsin and Minnesota could get extremely crowded.

Getting water to most desert areas is not the issue. We have water, groundwater. The majority of towns here (with the notable exception of Las Vegas) do not import any water at all. The problem is with the ways we use it and the number of people we try to support with it.

From Wikipedia: The theory arose in the late 1860s and 1870s during the westward expansion of white settlement west of the Missouri River and across the 100th meridian west, the traditional boundary line between the humid and semi-arid portions of central North America. At the same time, there was a spread of farming from the area near Adelaide northwards to areas of much lower rainfall. Specifically, In the early part of the decade, white settlement had spread into central and western Nebraska along the Platte River. Emigrants on the Oregon Trail began reporting that the land in western Nebraska, previously known for its yellowed dry vegetation during the summer, had seemingly become green. Out of this evidence, some scientists of the day concluded that change was due to the settlement and the effects of cultivation. One of the most prominent exponents of the theory was Cyrus Thomas, a noted climatologist of his day who made a study of the recent history of Colorado, concluding the increase in moisture was permanent, and that it coincided exactly with the first homesteaders. Other prominent advocates of the theory were Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, the noted geographer who had explored and surveyed parts of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and Samuel Aughey, a professor at the University of Nebraska.

Thomas and other climatologists offered a variety of explanations for the theory. A common idea was that the plowing of the soil for cultivation exposed the soil's moisture to the sky. In addition, newly planted trees and shrubs increased rainfall as well, as did smoke from trains. Another hypothesis stated that the increased vibrations in the atmosphere due to human activity created additional clouds, from which rain fell, an idea that led to the widespread dynamiting of the air across the Great Plains in the 1870s.

The theory was widely embraced in its day, not only by scientists, but land speculators and emigrants. Some historians have argued that the theory was embraced readily as an outgrowth of Manifest Destiny, the idea that God had ordained the white race of Americans to spread across the North American continent. The theory is regarded as partially responsible for the rapid settlement of the Great Plains in the later 19th century.

Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner is a great book to read if you're interested in water issues in the Great Plains and southwest. Will definitely give you a different perspective on the Army Corps of Engineers among other things.

Agriculture, at least initially, created the push for development in the west. The western population grew up under government sponsored programs that saw it as the bread basket of the to feed the growing eastern population. Sorry East coasters, no one gets a pass on this one.

The area I live in developed because of farming. Cotton, mint, alfalfa, etc. were all grown here but as the available groundwater for irrigation became depleted the farms were sold off for other types of development. The current number of homes actually uses less water than what the farmers did back in the day. Still too much but there it is....6 of one, half a dozen of the other.

It just boils down to there being too many of us using up far too many resources. The good news is that in spite of our best efforts the planet will chug along just fine, it just might be without us on it.


BadTux said...

HOA's requiring *grass*? Huh. In Tucson (AZ) grass lawns are *illegal* in any housing development built after I think 1971. All front lawns are required to be xeroscaped. It was interesting going to the new developments and looking at the nicely colored gravels laid in various patterns around desert shrubs and cacti (and the prerequisite one tree, either a palo verde or a mesquite).

Sounds to me like Las Vegas needs a major ass whipping. Which they're likely to get, considering that Las Vegas has used up all of their Colorado River water allotment...

Not Your Mama said...

Yup. They aren't known for living in realityville. Much of the reason there is an ongoing, low-level "war" between Las Vegas and most of the rest of Nevada...Las Vegas trying to take water from rural counties.

RJ Adams said...

I find the ironic part of this problem to be quite simply that there is no lack of water. The earth has a finite amount that is distilled daily from the sea, sent around the planet and deposited wherever Mother Nature decides. It then eventually finds its way back into the sea. The perfect recycling process. Of course, if we muck about with the climate it will alter where nature deposits her liquid bounty, which is jolly inconvenient for us, but of no concern whatever to Mother Nature.

pekka said...

I loved the last paragraph, Mama! Yes indeedy, "the planet will chug along just fine without us!" I am only hoping, selfish that I am, that our inevitable disappearance as species would be as far to the future as possible! Wouldn't bet any money on it, though.

Our problem, so far at least, is not that there is no water on this planet. The problem is that only 2% of it is available for us. The vast majority of our potable water is frozen in either the Arctic or the Antarctic and places like the Amazon rain forest. Not too many of us are living in those locals, do we now? This is why, it would be nice to use this vital resource with the respect it deserves.

Drag your old Atlas out and you will soon find out, that the population explosion is happening mainly in the areas that hardly have an adequate supply of potable water now, and it's going to get a lot worse later on. Quite frankly, I have never seen a more worrysome scenario developing and doing it almost unnoticed. Of course, it has to become in your face, all out, hellish disaster to get those who can do something about to take action. "Bad for the economy", they say. There is some truth to that but the alternative is bad for the human race. If we continue our insane ways with water, the world's over heated armament industry has to cranck it up yet again a notch to supply more guns and ammo for those nasty water wars that are on their way.

ryk said...

It might be without us. It almost certainly will be without a great many of us. There are just way too many humans on this planet - said the father of four - and eventually Mother Nature will make an adjustment. I'm betting it won't be pleasant for us or the planet.

Not Your Mama said...

I really have to struggle with the whole issue. Thing is, I have a difficult time being terribly upset at the prospect of fewer humans.

I don't look forward to suffering and death but with so many of us we've lost any reverance for individual lives that we may ever have had and become disposable commodities. Maybe a whole lot fewer of us would not be such a terrible thing.

TomCat said...

When I lived in the SouthWest (Phoenix) I tore out my grass and desert landscaped my yard. Here in the NorthWest, water is abundent. There are things prople can do to minimize our impact on the environment.

Woozie said...

Golf sucks. So does that whole wasting water thing. But mostly golf.

Women on the Verge said...

I agree with tomcat. I think that we can find ways of living that will not have devastating impact on the environment... unfortunately this would mean that a whole lot of people would actually have to start thinking about something other than themselves and their needs and comforts... yep... we're screwed.


United We Lay said...

Though my language was a little harsh - teething is not fun - I still believe that people who choose to move to these locations now are a little dotty. I feel the same way about anyone moving back to the devestated area of New Orleans, the areas where wildfires rage yearly, the areas that have been destroyed by hurricanes or tornadoes 5 times in 10 years, etc... I just thing that if the Earth is making it that hard for you to live there, maybe you SHOULDN'T be living there.

ryk said...

I just thing that if the Earth is making it that hard for you to live there, maybe you SHOULDN'T be living there.

I see your point, but it's just not in modern human's nature anymore to give up and move on. Civilization is from the beginning about man staying in one place and creating his own environment instead of following one about as a hunter gatherers.

Not Your Mama said...

Have to agree, there is some truth there. I sure wouldn't want to retire in Florida.

One of the main attractions of the southwest (before it went and got all popular) was the lack of people and development. A common saying in the West is "when they put in a stoplight, it's time to move on".

The problem is that lots of people liked the idea of the west but once they got here...immediately commenced to trying to turn it into a copy of wherever it was they came from.

Ron West said...

There is much to be offended over Southwest water use in Nevada, Arizona and California, but the only that burns me the most is growing cotton.

Yes, all the other shit pisses me off in a big way, but nothing uncorks me quite like the thought of growing cotten in the desert.

therealmotherhen said...

Very good post.
I strongly believe that very soon everyone in this world is going to drink recycled water - treated wastewater purified by using dual-membrane and reserve osmosis and ultraviolet technologies.

the WIZARD, fkap said...

Excellent essay.

Curiously similar to my latest entry from an entirely different perspective (written a few days earlier): Are We Programmed to Self Destruct?

A few less humans indeed...

the Wizard.....

P.S. I thought Bill Richardson was the standout candidate in last night's debate. I hope he can get some traction!!

Holden said...

Yeah? You think Richardson won by a mile? I wish. I thought he could have been stronger, but made some good points. I also thought Biden and Dodd looked good at times, for whatever *that's* worth.

I liveblogged the whole damn thing if you're interested in, er, what I thought during just about every second of it. :)

Not Your Mama said...

Ron West: no argument from me, growing cotton here is about the stupidest thing ever but that is exactly what they did.

Then to cap off their stupidity they imported Salt Cedars to line their irrigation ditches and block wind. A salt cedar sucks up an average of 200 gallons of groundwater per day and they have spread like wildfire here. The western version of kudzu.

Not Your Mama said...

Holden: I wish I thought he did too but no, I didn't see anyone I thought "won". I agree it was probably more helpful to Biden & Dodd than any of the others.

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