Get ready for the water wars – and not just in the Southern USA or the dry areas

If the 19th century was about land, 20th century was about oil, the 21st century will be about water

by Michael Smith

There are more of us and if we all drink, wash, flush, generate, irrigate, manufacture, etc., and continue to use and especially abuse and waste water the way we currently do we are going to be in dire straights.

This is not primarily because of droughts in say the Southern USA or in Australia but simply because of the way that we use water and the fact that we flush thousands of gallons of that previous resource down the drain daily, more often than not needlessly. We cannot continue to go on like this; no way.

A decaying highway, plunged deep underwater after Lake Hartwell was dammed in the 1950s, sits exposed once again across what remains of the bay outside Big Water Marina.

This is a depressing reminder of the toll from a stubborn Southern drought that only recently began to abate with replenishing rains this fall. Much of the region has recovered, but a ring stretching from northeast Georgia to the western Carolinas remains stuck in "extreme" drought.

However, it is not just the empty or part empty reservoirs in drought areas that must concern us. We all must think about the way we use water. In addition to that our immense consumption of bottled water, which removes so much of the spring water and other such from the source before it ever even reaches such reservoirs.

It is at times not due to drought that such reservoirs have run dry but because of the water extraction elsewhere for other purposes, and bottles water is one of those that does just that.

Neither is this, necessarily, a result of the so-called “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”, but more often than not bad water management and especially bad water usages and great water wastage.

When the UK had a couple of extremely dry and warm to hot summers and we were put under drought orders in several regions we were also told that it would take years of steady rainfall to refill the reservoirs and especially the aquifers.

Then came the wet summer of 2007 and after just a few days of nigh on continuous and also heavy rain, something that should not have, according to the experts, been filling up the aquifers, we suddenly heard on the news that, unless the rain abated rather soon all the aquifers would be overflowing. But, I thought it would take years of continuous steady rain for them to fill up again and heavy rain in only a few days would not do that. So, at least the experts told us.

Our water usages and the wastage of this precious resource is what is causing most problems. Cars are washed willy-nilly and lawns watered, even during droughts. What for? Toilets are flushed all the time even if it is only for a wee. Each and every time a toilet is being flushed that are about ten liters – 2.5 US gallons – of clean perfectly safe drinking water literally down the tube.

As regards to Hartwell, a massive 56,000-acre lake straddling Georgia-South Carolina state line, is near the epicenter. Even after a spate of recent downpours, its water line is nearly 18 feet below normal levels.

"We never thought we'd see it. We never thought the lake would go this far down," said Jane Davis, who built the marina from the ground up with her husband. "Everyone needs water, but Hartwell has finally given more water than it can take."

Some residents blame the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which sends millions of gallons of water from the lake each week downstream to the Savannah River to help supply Savannah, Augusta and other cities.

They also worry that the Corps and another federal agency, the Southeastern Power Administration, focus too much on generating electricity and too little on keeping the lake full.

"You're going to have to put lake levels on the priority list," said Mike Gray, a real estate broker in nearby Anderson, S.C., who has a growing list of unsold homes on the lake's banks.
The Corps, which has reduced water releases from Hartwell by 15 percent this month, said producing electricity is an "incidental" byproduct of sending water downstream.

Atttitudes like that are really the worrying thing, in my view, when it is more important for those like that real estate broker, that the lake is full so that people can have their big boats on their and go playing rather than whether people have water to drink or electricity.

This is a man-made lake, a reservoir, and it is there to be used for water for drinking, power generating and other uses, but not, primarily, for boating, however nice this may be for the residents around that lake.

Until such a time that the world gets its priorities right, and I mean here the people of the world, we are going to be a deep you know what. Too many with the money – they still have some it seems – are more concerned as to where they can play with their boats and impress their friends with having a boat at a marina, and such. Time for some changes, methinks.

Reservoirs are there to store water for times of needs and not whether some boats can be sailed on there, or whether there is great fishing. That all is secondary and should be thus. Time everyone woke up to this fact, whether at Hartwell or elsewhere.

Water is needed for people, wildlife and nature; the boats are not needed. It is time those that think they can do because they have the money get real. If there is no water to irrigate the fields then they have no food either. But, I guess, they'd simply reckon that they go an buy imported stuff. Brilliant – NOT!

I rest my case.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008