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Canada is known to hold large reserves of pristine fresh water. This valuable resource is becoming a growing concern simply because the financial incentives are quite attractive to many short sighted politicians and business men. It remains to be seen if it will be exported quickly or if the government will attempt to keep it. With Russia putting pressure on Canadian sovereignty of the Arctic and increasing demands from the U.S to buy massive amounts of water. Giving in would drain many of the Canadian lakes and consequently ruin the surrounding wildlife. How is it possible to satisfy everyone's needs here? The U.S needs water fast. Tensions are rising in the Arctic circle due to the fact that it contains a lot of resources and with the ice melting it is opening trade routes that were previously impossible to traverse. And, in the middle of all this, the majority of Canadians are undecided on this issue although it is considered as one of the leading concerns at the moment. From a political and ecological point of view it is quite a dilemma.

 

Nevertheless there must be a way to help everyone here while preserving our most valuable resource in the years to come... or am I just being a little too optimistic?

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Why do you think the US needs the water as badly as you imply? The US has great reserves of water as well, bordering with Canada most of the great lakes (with the exception of Lake Michigan which it completely within the border of the USA). And should water truely become scarce in parts of the USA, we can adapt our usage as an alternative to importing water. We are growing vast quantities of water-intensive rice and cotton in the deserts of the US southwest, certainly we could reduce water consumption by growing less water intensive crops there if really needed.

 

Can you elaborate on the tensions in the artic. Sealanes would probably be handled just as they are in the other oceans. Perhaps there are resources there, but this is unproven. And if there are, international law defines how Russia, Canada, and the other nations can recover these resources (though I seem to recall the USA hasn't ratified one specific treaty, it shouldn't affect the relations between the Russia and Canada however).

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One clear sign that things are going to change is Lake Mead, behind the Hoover dam, which is only at 43% of its capacity...

 

It's only logical that people in dry areas are looking around for some water. And it's only logical that they also look across the border to places where the water in lakes is (nearly) drinking quality.

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Yeah, I agree changes are coming to this part of the country. And I agree it is logical to look and perhaps even inquire about buying and shipping (via pipeline?) water. Ocean desalination is another possibility. But with regards to the Southwest USA it seems to make more sense to me to do a better job conserving the water they already have than go to these extremes to get more water.

 

Just fly into any city in the region and you will see many lush, green golf courses. While some homes and businesses have yards which consume very little water by using native plants, many still require daily watering. Isn't all this a waste of precious water? maybe they could use astroturf if they insist on the look of grass? And I've already mentioned the thirsty crops grown in the region; why shouldn't less water intensive crops be grown instead? Using water is fine if you have it, but the desert southwest probably doesn't have the water to continue the way they have been going.

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Sorry if I am insulting... but the "American way" is not to conserve water... it's to get more water. People only think about their bank account, and as long as the price of the water is just a few percent of the total expenses, then that's just affordable. I bet the total money spent on water for the average household in Las Vegas is less than 1% of their income.

 

Make water 10x more expensive, and native plants will become popular (and a public outcry will also be heard).

 

On topic again:

I don't think that you can easily start exporting large amounts of water from Canadian lakes and rivers without having a large impact on the ecology. Perhaps you can remove water from rivers that have nearly arrived at the sea? I would be very cautious to remove water from an area that is all natural (without artificially maintained water levels).

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Sorry if I am insulting... but the "American way" is not to conserve water... it's to get more water. People only think about their bank account, and as long as the price of the water is just a few percent of the total expenses, then that's just affordable. I bet the total money spent on water for the average household in Las Vegas is less than 1% of their income.

 

Make water 10x more expensive, and native plants will become popular (and a public outcry will also be heard).

I agree to a point. I think the typical, middle class American does conserve water; which would be the majority of Americans. I certainly take care not to waste it. However the rich and the business class (run, oddly enough, by the rich) seem to me to be more wasteful (especially if there is a dollar to be made). Most of the water used in the desert southwest is for industrial and agricultural purposes. I don't see a real problem with agriculture, but I object to using this precious water for rice and cotton rather than crops which require less water when water is in short supply. With Industry, why should the industries requiring lots of water be built in a desert?

On topic again:

I don't think that you can easily start exporting large amounts of water from Canadian lakes and rivers without having a large impact on the ecology. Perhaps you can remove water from rivers that have nearly arrived at the sea? I would be very cautious to remove water from an area that is all natural (without artificially maintained water levels).

 

I agree a massive diversion of water from fresh water lakes and rivers would harm the ecology (look up the history of mono lake for an example). For this reason I don't see Canada (or the great lakes states) permitting this.

 

Maybe it is possible to divert (and desalinate) large quantities of water from oceans without ecological harm?

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I agree to a point. I think the typical, middle class American does conserve water; which would be the majority of Americans. I certainly take care not to waste it.

 

Well, if my experience is typical, and the actions of my neighbors, the neighbors of my friends and colleagues, and pretty much every community within a 100 mile radius of me is considered "typical," then I can guarentee your point is mistaken.

 

Case in point: People running their sprinklers every day for 4 hours at a time to keep their lawn green during a season where we've experienced months of drought and are running low on fresh drinking water... Where our lakes have been drained so extensively that the levels are low enough to close all of the docks and reveal stolen cars abandoned in the lake bottom... and yet the sprinklers just keep running as if they will never run out of water... and don't even get me started about golf courses which consume more water in a single day than four average families in an entire year...

 

[/rant]

 

 

I understand that this mindset is changing, especially among younger people, but since you mentioned "typical middle class," I just had to point out that it is not what you describe... What you describe is still relegated to the margins of our (American) society... at least, at present.

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Well, if my experience is typical, and the actions of my neighbors, the neighbors of my friends and colleagues, and pretty much every community within a 100 mile radius of me is considered "typical," then I can guarentee your point is mistaken.

 

Case in point: People running their sprinklers every day for 4 hours at a time to keep their lawn green during a season where we've experienced months of drought and are running low on fresh drinking water... Where our lakes have been drained so extensively that the levels are low enough to close all of the docks and reveal stolen cars abandoned in the lake bottom... and yet the sprinklers just keep running as if they will never run out of water... and don't even get me started about golf courses which consume more water in a single day than four average families in an entire year...

 

[/rant]

 

I understand that this mindset is changing, especially among younger people, but since you mentioned "typical middle class," I just had to point out that it is not what you describe... What you describe is still relegated to the margins of our (American) society... at least, at present.

 

 

Interesting.

 

It may be there regional differences. I've always lived in parts of the country that generally get quite a bit of rain. The grass does not usually need watering to stay green, so when dry spells arrive, most people don't bother watering. During these times, the grass might go brown, but it will turn green again when the rain returns in a few weeks. I sense some irony in that people living in wet areas of the country are more frugal with water than those living in dry areas...

 

It may be we have different perceptions on who are the middle class. Maybe I am considering the rich, those you are calling the middle class?

 

If I get some time I might research the typical water usage of people in the USA.

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Interesting.

 

It may be there regional differences.

Just so you have a point of reference, I live in Austin, TX. I was ecstatic yesterday when it rained for 5 whole minutes... First time since June... But, 5 minutes isn't squat, and it evaporated in just as short a time in the 103 degree heat.

 

I get rather bothered because we have water restrictions in place... and for good reason... yet people ignore it and just water and water and water and water... all for that precious green lawn. I'm like, "You know what people? The grass is beige because it's conserving energy... It's not supposed to be green when there is no water... now stop wasting it, because we're not going to have enough to drink in a few short years (short being a relative term)."

 

Anyway... Interesting point. People with more access to water may be better at conserving it. Wouldn't that be just too ironic? :doh:

 

(Oh... middle class for me = my work colleagues and neighbors... making anywhere between 30-80K per year).

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I agree to a point. I think the typical, middle class American does conserve water; which would be the majority of Americans. I certainly take care not to waste it. However the rich and the business class (run, oddly enough, by the rich) seem to me to be more wasteful (especially if there is a dollar to be made). Most of the water used in the desert southwest is for industrial and agricultural purposes. I don't see a real problem with agriculture, but I object to using this precious water for rice and cotton rather than crops which require less water when water is in short supply. With Industry, why should the industries requiring lots of water be built in a desert?

Industry requires cooling water. Depending on the type of industry, it might need water for other purposes too.

While industry might seem to use a lot of water, you can bet that the people who designed and built this factory have considered to go to a place where water is cheaper. The location of a factory is definitely part of the planning. So, now more water is being used in the desert, but you get benefits too (like less transportation).

But for industry, water is just another financial factor.

 

So, the answer to your question is: because it was the most profitable to build that industry in the desert. I bet you could have answered that yourself too ;)

 

The bigger question is: why are people living in the desert. Without those people, it is likely that the industry wouldn't be there either.

That 2nd question I cannot answer (unless you'd accept the answer "because gambling laws are less strict in the desert" as a proper answer).

 

Maybe it is possible to divert (and desalinate) large quantities of water from oceans without ecological harm?

That requires a tremendous amount of energy. If you can just divert fresh water, it'll be cheaper. Again, it's Ecology vs. Economy. You get 10 points if you can guess which one will win.

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  • 1 month later...
Why do you think the US needs the water as badly as you imply? The US has great reserves of water as well, bordering with Canada most of the great lakes (with the exception of Lake Michigan which it completely within the border of the USA). And should water truely become scarce in parts of the USA, we can adapt our usage as an alternative to importing water. We are growing vast quantities of water-intensive rice and cotton in the deserts of the US southwest, certainly we could reduce water consumption by growing less water intensive crops there if really needed.

 

This is all an issue that hits close to home for me, in several ways:

1) I am a Canadian;

2) My home province (Saskatchewan) has more reserves of clean, fresh water than anywhere else in Canada;

3) I am currently living in Southern California;

4) I work in an industry related to water resources;

5) I work in the desert. A lot.

 

Hopefully those are good qualifications to give a somewhat informed opinion from.

 

In any case: the area I live in is, on average, middle- to upper-class by all of your definitions. I don't think that anyone here uses water any more than the average person. There are some upper-class communities that I know use more than the average family, just as I know there are some lower-class communities that use a lot more water on average as well. Regardless of this, we have reports in our news and papers daily on what our current water supply is, and I have personally heard and seen many broadcasts on TV and radio asking citizens to make an extra effort to conserve water for a specific duration of time.

 

But with regards to the Southwest USA it seems to make more sense to me to do a better job conserving the water they already have than go to these extremes to get more water.

 

The problem is that our existing water reserves are full of contaminants from fuel, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and general trash. It requires A LOT of energy, resources, and time to properly return water to a potable state. We're talking about amounts of money comparable to the state budget. That being the case, it gets put on the back burner for the most part because it's just too expensive to repair the problem. The source of money to clean up our water reserves - here specifically known as the State Fund - receives its revenue from 3% of fuel cost. I am in the industry of environmental consultants who work at cleaning up our water resources (specifically, we clean up the carcinogenic contaminants), and the largest projects out there are reimbursed by the State Fund. With our current economic recession, the state's governor has decided to withdraw all money from the State Fund and put it towards other projects - like repaving our freeways once a year (this blows my mind, but that's a whole other discussion). We have been issued IOUs for all the work we've done, and now our clients won't allow us to move forward on any projects until everyone gets reimbursed by the nonexistent State Fund again. Thankfully, we only ever had about 5% of our projects reimbursed by the State Fund, but some of our associates relied entirely on those projects and have since declared bankruptcy.

 

Bottom line - our water resources in the Southwest are toxic to drink. Desalinization plants are energy-intensive and inefficient, and with the vast number of people living in the Southwest, we already have problems supplying enough energy. We regularly experience 'rolling blackouts' and 'brownouts' when too many people kick on their air conditioners.

 

I don't think that you can easily start exporting large amounts of water from Canadian lakes and rivers without having a large impact on the ecology. Perhaps you can remove water from rivers that have nearly arrived at the sea? I would be very cautious to remove water from an area that is all natural (without artificially maintained water levels).

 

I've read somewhere in the past decade - and don't quote me on this, my memory is sketchy about it - that large volumes of water are already being piped down into the western USA from British Columbia and Alberta into Washington and Oregon. A lot of the places in Canada where there are fresh water reserves are wetland environments and span very large areas; to disturb those niches would be disastrous from an ecological standpoint. Most water reserves are already zoned in National Parks so they are protected for that very reason.

 

I don't see a real problem with agriculture, but I object to using this precious water for rice and cotton rather than crops which require less water when water is in short supply. With Industry, why should the industries requiring lots of water be built in a desert?

 

The desert is a finicky place, and not many plants can grow there, water or not. There are other factors to consider, especially soil constituents. The desert is composed largely of silica-based sands (ie, quartz, micas and feldspars), and plants that grow there need to be able to incorporate silica into their structures. The grass family relies very heavily on silica for its structural component, and a prominent member of that family is rice. I'm not familiar with any areas in the southwest that grow cotton, though...

 

As far as industries go - it's been my experience that most industries require large volumes of water to operate. I'm sure there are many exceptions. Part of the history of desert-based industry is that, following World War II, there were a lot of people looking for work and the country was in a place where it could expand aggressively. Moreover, the military had discovered several chemical-based lubricants that worked far better to cool down equipment than plain old water, and thus industry was built in the desert because it was cheaper land and you didn't have to rely on water for cooling processes anymore. Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, it was found that two of these chemical lubricants (tetrachloroethylene and hexavalent chromium) were causing severe environmental problems and were highly carcinogenic (and hexavalent chromium was also mutagenic). All of a sudden, desert-based industry had to switch back to water for its processes, and a water reserve deficiency developed.

 

It may be there regional differences. I've always lived in parts of the country that generally get quite a bit of rain. The grass does not usually need watering to stay green, so when dry spells arrive, most people don't bother watering. During these times, the grass might go brown, but it will turn green again when the rain returns in a few weeks. I sense some irony in that people living in wet areas of the country are more frugal with water than those living in dry areas...

 

Perhaps the people living in areas with more precipitation simply don't need as much water to live the same lifestyle as those in arid areas. I agree though, people invest too much in keeping their grass green. It looks great, but we should really conserve more. Here in the southwest, we don't get much rain at all in a year; last year, it rained intermittently for one week in February and that was it.

 

Just so you have a point of reference, I live in Austin, TX. I was ecstatic yesterday when it rained for 5 whole minutes... First time since June... But, 5 minutes isn't squat, and it evaporated in just as short a time in the 103 degree heat.

 

Oh, so you live in the cooler climate of the American south, I see... :)

Like I said, I live in southern California and work a lot in Arizona and Nevada, and some of my worksites regularly exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit, no joke. Thankfully, the humidity level is very low, so... It's a dry heat!

 

The bigger question is: why are people living in the desert. Without those people, it is likely that the industry wouldn't be there either.

 

I can't answer for all the 'desert rats', as they call themselves... Part of it comes from American history, another part comes from global trends. There are settlements of people all up and down the Colorado River in Arizona/California that live in 100 + weather all year long. A lot of them are native tribes that have lived there for centuries, if not millennia, and originally settled there to keep close to the river. There is vast archaeological evidence of expansive irrigation having been dug in the desert floors - check out the Topock Maze if you're interested, it's a geoglyph you can see from satellite photos - but that was also back when the Colorado River was 10 times the size it is now. With large constructs like Hoover and Davis Dams upriver, the volume of water in the Colorado has greatly diminished. The size of the floodplains are unbelievably huge. The water levels would have to raise by, perhaps, 20 feet to spread out to its previous size.

 

The earth is also experiencing a warming pattern - whether you attribute it to the man-made greenhouse effect or from global cycles, regardless, it's happening. Back when the native tribes settled the land, the climate was much more temperate.

 

Many of the other people living in the desert communities enjoy the wilderness, the cheap cost of living, and the ability to actually have a sizeable yard. Believe me, with house costs being what they are here now, I considered moving to the desert and commuting an hour or two in to work... For a moment. I don't care for the heat, myself.

 

It's paradoxical now. The industry gives the people jobs, and the industry pollutes the water and kills them off. It's like a microcosm with it's own built-in population control. One thing you'll notice is that there is no population gain or loss in desert communities.

 

My feeling on the matter is that we need to find a more efficient way to harvest ocean water and make it potable. We also need to invest much more money into cleaning up our existing water reserves, but I'll tell you this - after what I've seen working in this industry, it's going to take many decades of work to clean them up again. There's a LOT of contamination out there.

 

Bottom line: don't drink the groundwater.

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