Photo credit: Kevin Straight
A Natural Southern California Landscape with an Aqueduct Visible in the Distance
Dessication and Civilization
Rain is necessary; for water is the medium of life, more important even than the light of the sun; the unintelligible whim of the elements may condemn to dessication regions which once flourished with empire and industry, like Nineveh or Babylon, or may help to swift strength and wealth cities apparently off the main line of transport and communication, like those of Great Britain or Puget Sound. – Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage
Years ago, when I was still an engineering undergraduate, my Hydrology professor predicted that World War III would be fought not over oil or ideology but over fresh water. That was back in the 1990’s and global warming was only an academic theory, barely mentioned in the mainstream media. Usable water, though, was already running out. Throughout the 20th century technology had allowed exponential population growth in many of the most arid regions of the world, such as North Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and the American Southwest.
Now accelerating climate change, along with an additional two decades of population growth, is making the situation much worse. The other day I read an article in the Irish Times that reported on the current drought in the Southwestern region of the the US–the worst in a thousand years. The issue affects me deeply and personally since I live in Southern California. I have only to drive up Interstate 5 so see miles and miles of dry wasteland in an area once famous for its groves of nut trees. I will not attempt to explain the Byzantine world of California water politics. Suffice it to say that without enough water to go around, most of it has been allocated to Los Angeles and other municipalities. Farmers have been forced to cut down groves of trees that took years to establish.
I spent my last few days off tearing out the dead brown grass of our front yard and replacing it with stones, a project many of our neighbors have already completed. I capped off most of my sprinklers, leaving only a couple of heads to drip water on small beds of desert plants at the corners. As watering restrictions become more Draconian, I may not even be allowed to run those.
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