We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, December 10. 2014
Sometime in 1996, I was scuba diving off the Outer Banks. Between dives, the boat captain and I had a conversation. His view was that in 20 years, water would be big business. I found that humorous, but as time passed, it struck me it has become a major industry. Or has it?
We spend little time considering something so basic, so essential, to life. It seems like something we don't really have to think about. Water is, after all, plentiful. But it takes considerable work to make it as plentiful as it is.
While water is handled as a public utility, the reality is there is a huge market for it and it is, as the captain suggested, big business. But it's always been big business, we just don't pay much attention to it because it's always available.
I had no idea the NY Public Library was built on the remains of the Croton Reservoir...
Walsh: Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.
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It is very big business. I live in Northwest CT, surrounded by the complex of reservoirs which supply the greater Hartford area. The engineering, financial, and legal work that went into building them was massive; the reverberations of the land buy outs/eminent domain issues continue to this day.
I think the difficulty is in visualization: I drive past the reservoirs daily, so I grasp their size; but the people in the city/suburban areas almost never do. They certainly don't realize that four villages and countless farms had to be destroyed to ensure their clean drinking water.
Good Morning Bulldog:
I have been meaning to congratulate you on the posts you have made here the last few weeks.
Today is another good entry which deserves a thoughtful response.
You ask water--where is the water to quench the thirst of tomorrow's millions of Americans(?) and Mexicans.
One of the arguments for the Keystone Pipeline that I have heard is this: it provides an opportunity to use the same easement as the Keystone oil line will use upon which to build another pipeline--a second line and this one for water from the Hudson Bay watershed. When one is acquainted with people in Albuquerque,Arizona, and Chicago, who are working toward buying/selling water from Canada to the American southwest--yes, these people do exist and they are well educated, very powerful, and international in their cartel it is easy to see how simple it will be to buy cheap and sell high. Take a look at some of these maps and tell me how your thoughts. But, remember there has been an organized effort among university personnel and outside advisers to count every drop of water running free in creeks, rivers,etc.
Missouri River area:
For more maps and information you can go here:
Thank you. Much appreciated.
I'm actually a believer that water would be better handled as a business, rather than a utility.
Who knows? Maybe letting business move water around to where it is needed or required will help mitigate "global warming" ;) LOL.
There's more than enough water in the world to meet our needs for some time to come (just as there is enough oil, natural gas, etc.). Solutions to any 'issues' which crop up will need to be met with in an efficient manner - which means understanding the costs/revenues which surround those issues.
As a public utility, we will fail to understand these properly. A good example is to look at what happened in Detroit with water - homes of the poor losing access to clean water. Why? Because public utilities can't keep providing stuff to people for free forever.
As a business, water will continue to be provided wherever and whenever it is needed. I know some smart person will say "but the people who can't afford it, won't get it because businesses will shut it off..."
That's like the canard of non-existent health care for the poor.
Fact is businesses are better suited to determine how to set fees to continue providing for those in need. It happens all the time, just usually quite quietly and going unnoticed.
A great example is the amount of volunteer work I do through my own employer. They provide us days off to go work projects and provide assistance. I'm sure the company can just as easily say "no, we pay you to work, so you can't volunteer."
Companies know it's in their best interest to keep what is needed available to all.
Water would be no different.
We think about it all the time here in California, but that's because we frequently have "droughts" when rationing and watering restrictions are put in place.
Of course any situation which exists in the majority of normal years is by definition NOT a drought. What's really going on is that (1) the state won't build enough dams and pipelines to keep it plentiful (lest it cause more people to move here, as if that could be prevented); (2) rationing and restrictions aimed at residential users have no noticeable effect because most water goes to farmers (at 1% of the residential price); and (3) no politician has the guts to subject farmers to either rationing or normal prices.
All of which are traceable to the same root cause: there isn't a free market in water, because the federal government won't allow one (and has control because it funded the dams and aqueducts).
In short, the water business is cronyism at its worst.
How many illegal invaders have y'all got out there?
But then of course, that couldn't possibly have ANYTHING to do with your water problem...
My brother works for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Lake Mead is seriously low (in the early 80's it overflowed into the spillways at Hoover Dam). So they're drilling additional access lines to obtain water at a lower level in the lake. http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/water-environment/after-seven-years-digging-vegas-reaches-its-last-straw
Yes, I read about that.
Not sure how that's going to work out for them, in the long run. It's a major risk, and from what I've read, the tunnels won't be ready by the time it is needed.
Fascinating situation they face. One has to wonder, if the water was priced to supply, whether there would be a shortage?
Sure, it would impact business in Vegas, but they'd have the funds to address the issue more effectively, instead of asking for federal money.
My brother works for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Lake Mead is seriously low (in the early 80's it overflowed into the spillways at Hoover Dam). So they're drilling additional access lines to obtain water at a lower level in the lake.
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/water-environment/after-seven-years-digging-vegas-reaches-its-last-straw It's not trivial.
Every drop of water in rivers and lakes is owned by someone and in fact about 150% of it is owned. The "ownership" is typically based on actions taken in the 1800's by someone who never even had any rights to the water but through a complex set of laws and regulations was grandfathered in to "rights". It is not accurate to say that Las Vegas is in deep trouble because of cyclical low water in the Colorado river. They too have water rights but with decreasing water they are forced to buy water from those whose "rights" are superior to theirs. But a public utility can easily pay 100 time more for water then a farm does and this gives cities like Las Vegas and Pheonix an edge in the market. Imagine yourself a farmer in the Southwest buying a million dollars worth of water to raise crops for a 5 million dollar profit. Now imagine that the city of Las Vegas comes to you and offers you $20 million for that water at Boulder dam (meaning you don't even have to pay to maintain your existing water system). What would you do? So just understand that the problem for Las Vegas is a mechanical one, i.e. drilling new "straws" into lake Mead not a water problem. Also it is worth noting that in the next 5-10 years we will again be seeing headlines about the massive flooding in the Colorado River Basin. These flood/drought cycles are well documented but don't make as flashy a headline if they are explained too much.
Technically, the water itself is not owned in most tributaries. My family used to own 7 acres with a creek running through it. We owned the land under the creek, not the water in it. However, there are rights that go with the ownership of the land under the creek - and we used those rights to allow the local fire department to refill trucks whenever they needed to.
But I get your point, though it's not as clear-cut as you've laid out.
I agree the cycle at Lake Mead is well known and predictable, but it knowing this hasn't solved the issue, mainly because as a public utility, they just keep going back to the taxpayer to 'fix' the issue.
A private corporation would be forced to plan ahead more, and would be competing/negotiating with another private company - making the pressures you describe here much different.
Don't forget, the farmers in California pay a fraction of the rate residential clients do for water. I doubt that differentiation would be as severe if a private company handled the water rights (or maybe it would be worse, who knows? It's all dependent on analyzing the market, something public utilities don't do.)
Yes, it's mechanical, but it's issue that is solvable if the market were more involved.
The water is owned. Not necessarily by the landowner next to the creek but by someone. In fact unless it is a true flood year it is typical that 150% of the water in every Western state is owned. And that ownership MUST be excercised because if it is not the owner will lose that water and possibly future water as well. Stealing water from creeks and rivers in the West is common but you have to be very careful because the owner of the water could well be your nieghbor who will be watching. If you ever really want to find out if the water is owned then just start pumping it out and using it and see how long it takes for someone to tell you.
I might add that when it comes to water for Las Vegas it would be niave to think that the politicians in Nevada would allow Las Vegas to go belly up while some rancher is sucking water out of the Colorado or any of it's tributaries. When this becomes serious someday watch and see just how much power the state can excercise over water. But more likely they will simply buy it from some 60 year old farmer who is tired of farming and would rather retire a millionaire.
Not sure about out West. I can tell you on our land, it's not (and nobody every complained about us doing whatever we wanted with the creek water).
It may be owned by the state. In that case, it's not so much owned as managed by the state as a public utility.
Either way, the problems of Las Vegas and California would likely be less if the water WERE privately owned and managed.