Monday, December 17, 2012

Water Infrastructure

Would you rather use our limited water supplies for hydro-fracturing gas drilling or large-scale agriculture? A new study says that the gas industry will need 70 to 140 billion gallons of water to tap new wells over the next decade. The water intensive nature of both industries are bidding up the price of water in places where shale plays overlap with pastures. With the Great Plains Aquifers being depleted at a rapid pace, North Dakota is already having to think about this question but more states will have soon be worrying about it too.

“[Water] is a finite resource that is not being recharged,” said Jeffrey Falke, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University.  “That water has been there for thousands of years, and it is rapidly being depleted. Already, streams that used to run year-round are becoming seasonal, and refuge habitats for native fishes are drying up and becoming increasingly fragmented.”

If we want to be able to provide a sustainable path for both industries (as well as the preexisting communities) to coexist, then we are going to have to invest in our water infrastructure for the future.

Americans are not very worried when it comes to global warming, but they are very worried about the  impacts of global warming. People want clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.  There is a consensus that people are do not want to think about whether the infrastructure that they take for granted every day will be there for their children.  Unfortunately with Superstorm Sandy drowning the east coast and with droughts plaguing the farm belt, it is time to start reconsidering our water infrastructure. We are going to need new dams and levees in places where there is too much water; as well as pipelines, water recycling plants, and conservation efforts in places where there is too little. 

If the government allocates the money to build these new facilities, It will overwhelming help rural agricultural states. Although Congressional Republicans tend to be opposed to infrastructure spending on principle, it will be hard for them to resist the money if it is going to their districts (providing jobs and water for their constituents). As Congressional Democrats support spending money on such things because it helps bring down the national unemployment rate, is it possible that a compromise stimulus package could be in the works?

Bonus Fact: The United States uses 10 percent less water today than we did in 1980. 

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