Floods in the East, Drought in the West…There is a Solution

Simon Stiell speaks at a news conference during the pre-COP26 climate meeting in Milan, Italy October 2, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo
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by Dan Ehrlich

The latest summer floods to hit the US Midwest and South have devastated eastern Kentucky killing 38 people. Yet residents in these parts are getting used to their towns yearly being transformed into Waterworld.

But just the opposite is the case in much of America’s Southwest, where drought conditions and wildfires persist. And authorities don’t hold out much hope for a better future.

Hoover Dam-Lake Mead dropping water level

Annual flows in three prominent US river basins – the Colorado, Rio Grande, and San Joaquin – could decline by as much 8 percent to 14 percent over the next four decades, according to a new report from the Dept. of the Interior. This would affect water to eight states, from Wyoming to Texas and California, as well as to parts of Mexico.

The declining water supply comes as the West and Southwest, already among the fastest-growing parts of the country, continue to gain population, while drought conditions continue overall.

Water is something many Americans take for granted. Just turn on the tap or flush the toilet and pay the bill. But, if you live in a desert town such as Las Vegas, excessive water charges can make you appreciate this life-giving liquid. Did you ever wonder what would happen if our major rivers dried up?

Seriously, if you’re a believer in global warming, Al Gore or both, it’s a possibility if the ice caps melt and the snowfall pattern changes as the government reports suggest.

The report notes that projected changes in temperature and precipitation are likely to alter the timing and quantity of stream flows in all Western river basins, with increased flooding possible in the winter due to early snowmelt and water shortages in the summer due to reductions in spring and summer runoffs.

The Arctic is warming at a more rapid pace than previously thought — and four times faster than the world at large, according to research published Thursday in the journal Communications Earth & Environment. 

Between 1979 and 2021, the Arctic warmed about four times as fast as the global average, significantly more than previous estimates of two or three times as fast, researchers found.

Within the region itself there are also numerous variations in the pace of the warming — the northern Russian island chain of Novaya Zemlya is warming at seven times the global average, according to researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute. 

Researchers calculated the average of four sets of satellite data during the four decades covered by the research and found that while global average temperatures saw an increase of about 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, the Arctic saw warming of over 0.75 degrees. 

The Arctic Circle is at particular risk for warming simply because so much of it is ocean, compared to other regions. As a result, when its sea ice melts, the increased portion of water contributes to further warming because it absorbs the sun’s heat rather than reflecting it. 

What would happen to population centers? Would they dry up, too? Or would we be forced to build and operate costly desalination plants to use water from the sea? There is another alternative.

Past US Presidents have campaigned on the promise of massive public works projects across the country to ease unemployment and restore facilities. Well, here’s probably the biggest and potentially most beneficial project they could undertake- a transcontinental water canal.

There’s not much we can do to stop the annual torrential rains, twisters and floods that devastate the Midwest. Yet, all that water goes to waste in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t have to be that way. Some good can come from the floods…they can irrigate the West.

Beattyville, Kentucky flooded

Since much of the Midwest and East get too much water and the West not enough, why not send some west? Here’s one for short-term thinking narrow-minded politicians…one of the greatest American public utilities projects since the transcontinental railroad. Let’s build a canal or aqueduct along the Mississippi River, having it run through Texas, New New Mexico, Arizona and California.

It can’t be done? Rubbish…the California aqueduct and canal system traverse mountains and desert. The only people that will prevent this project are visionless politicians who feel it would take so long to complete, they’ll be out of office so why should they care?

Of course, there is also the “states’ rights” gang in congress that will say; this is our water, not California’s. But, they’re wrong. This is America and its America’s water. And the overwhelming fact we have to face is our politicians have failed the nation and us by not planning for the distant future after WW2.

But, in addition to the aqueduct, major reservoirs would be developed in each of the states concerned to hold the seasonal overflow.

US  leaders, who have failed to provide protection for our international borders, have also dropped the ball with this vital resource. They thought water and cheap gas would never vanish. Politicians have never brought up the subject, often because of their own vested interests. But, it’s a reality now and we had better make plans for the future.

Such a mammoth undertaking would also be an economic gold mine for the nation, with thousands of jobs created along with an enormous boost to ancillary industries supplying the project. This is such a natural idea it’s surprising no one has never been investigated before. Well, maybe not such a surprise since simple and sensible solutions are often overlooked by politicians and bureaucrats.

If the Romans could build functioning aqueducts in ancient times, the US can do it now.

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