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Guest Opinion: You never miss the water till the well runs dry

Original post made on Aug 21, 2008

""When the well's dry, they know the worth of water,"" Benjamin Franklin observed in his Poor Richard'''s Almanack in the late 1700s. It''s still true, even if on a vastly larger scale.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (15)

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Posted by David Schrom
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 21, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Thanks for a great column!


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 21, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Timely, very relevant column! Thank you. It's sad that voluntary, self-rationing of water doesn't seem to be on the upswing. We are approaching a crisis - one that may come sooner rather than later, depending on upcoming rainfalls.


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Posted by Walter E, Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2008 at 3:57 am

Shamefully, I accepted a $1,400 fee for engineering associated with the removal of a dam in the hills behind Carmel.
Civilization requires certain civil works to accommodate needs. In recent years the prudence of our predecessors has been depicted negatively, with any change from "natural" bad and any benefit to people from that change discounted. Forget the convenience or even the necessity of a faucet and a switch, insist that these servants to humanity come in the servant's entrance and defer to their ethereal betters. Far better that our forests be harvested by fire and pestilence than by greedy profit hogs. The tax on foolishness is a high one.


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Posted by Janis Baron
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2008 at 9:07 am

This is the article that everyone needs to read now, no matter where they live.


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Posted by Jon Stoumen
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 22, 2008 at 12:09 pm

That was a beautiful article. Water saving measures as you mention here are doable and are the law of the land in Melbourne, Australia. Some communities there and in Florida have pipelines to bring partially treated water back to homes and businesses for use in irrigation.
I have installed split waste drain systems, rainwater collection and storage as part of my projects, here and in Sonoma County. That along with pervious concrete driveways, walks and parking lots should be the new norm, to reduce runoff, charge the aquifer and keep storm-water on site.
With all the new attention being paid to Green Building these measures should also be encouraged. If we don't begin to see more of these systems becoming commonplace our trees and landscaping, so much a part of the quality of life in Palo Alto, is threatened.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2008 at 3:18 pm

Nothing really new, but all really necessary. However, I'm not optimistic that society will be willing to make the necessary investments, behavioral as well as financial, until the crisis crashes down hard on it. The prevailing illusion of everlasting abundance is all too convincing.


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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2008 at 5:41 am

I am completely with you on the concept. We have known for over 3 years that our water table in California is decreasing faster than we can replenish it. I read this as a teen.

It is a little like the dams and dykes in New Orleans. The population has known for 40 years that they were need in repair, but kept voting in people who squandered the money instead of fixing them with the billions sent by us, the Federal taxes.

However, you completely lose me when you use this as yet another thing to start beating up the USA on. Man made global warming has been shown to be a myth. The peak in Oil prices has shown the American people that we are too dependent on others and need to drill here, now. So what is left? Oh, let's start the disaster drumbeat about water. I was ok with this until you started trying to compare China, where people starve to death still, to this day, and the USA, in order to show how bad we are.

You will win more hearts and minds with honey than with vinegar.

To give you an idea why this is so irritating, go live in a hut, trudge to the local river every day to fill your water bucket, cook barely enough rice to survive, THEN come back and lecture the rest of us to use less water, like China.




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Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 23, 2008 at 2:40 pm

As long as there are 6 billion people on the planet and 40 million people in a semi-arid state like California, there will always be a supply and demand drought. We have to get serious about the population bomb but too many people feel entitled to breed like flies. To increase water supplies we're going to have get serious about building desalinization plants powered by nuclear energy. Fat chance. The politicians will continue to tell us we can solve our problems without sacrifice and too many people will believe it. Sadly, as long as water flows out of the tap nothing will get done.


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 23, 2008 at 2:56 pm

"To increase water supplies we're going to have get serious about building desalinization plants powered by nuclear energy."

Neal,

Thank you. I have been saying this for quite some time on this forum.

Nuclear (fission) energy IS the future, until fusion arrives. It is really too bad that so many people have been snookered by the anti-nuke crowd. That crowd has driven us into a serious economic and environmental corner. We could have already been a mostly-electic transportation economy, had it not been for the luddite greenies.

France is building another nuke. When will we get smart?


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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2008 at 7:39 pm

I see I wrote that we have known for over 3 years about this issue...

I meant over 30 years.. I read about this problem 30 years ago.


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Posted by Walter Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2008 at 1:56 am

Long before desalinization there is the less energy dependent de-poopization and more storage of fresh water behind dams and in off watercourse storage and groundwater recharge. Perhaps we will even have to reconsider the Reeber [sic?] plan. We have to break away from this "humanity is a disease" crap and get back to the wise use of resources.


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Posted by Marianna Grossman Keller
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 25, 2008 at 1:26 am

I am so glad that my column has provoked so much thoughtful and heartfelt response. The simple place to start is to stop wasting water through undetected leaks, inefficient fixtures, water-intensive landscaping, ill-adjusted sprinklers, etc.

Unfortunately, nuclear power is a very water intensive way to produce energy. Much better to conserve energy (first) and to design buildings and manufacturing processes to use less energy. for transportation, I think we need to shift to less carbon intense forms of energy (public transit, walking, biking, locating homes near shopping, school and work) and then shifting to electric and plug-in vehicles using decentralized sources of power.

Back to the water topic: it is so easy to assume that there is always more water available until it runs out, or there is a sudden price adjustment.

Smart investors and entrepreneurs are working on water efficiency technologies and getting existing solutions to market faster. Others are buying up water rights in Panama and elsewhere.

For readers who still doubt the effect of elevated CO2 and other Green house gas levels in the atmosphere, please explain the increasing acidification of the ocean, increased storm frequency and other disruptions in weather patterns, including rapidly melting polar ice and receding glaciers around the world.

If there is even a chance that human burning of fossil fuels and massive deforestation is triggering these catastrophic changes, it would be irresponsible not to respond with alacrity. What legacy do we wish to leave our children and the generations beyond them?


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Posted by Marianna Keller
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 25, 2008 at 1:29 am

About the comparison between levels of water use in the US and China, that is meant as an illustration, not as a recommendation that one country should emulate the other. In both countries water tables are dropping faster than the natural replenishment rate, causing problems of subsidence as land levels drop, as well as making future water needs harder to meet, for agriculture, industrial and domestic uses.

Keep those comments coming!


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Posted by Walter Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2008 at 4:32 am

Nuclear power plants, like most thermal energy plants, extract energy from the difference in temperature between source and sink. The cooling water that is the usual heat sink is not consumed, merely warmed. Very often, the warm discharge water is a benefit to marine organisms.
"If there is even a chance that human burning of fossil fuels and massive deforestation is triggering these catastrophic changes, it would be irresponsible not to respond with alacrity. What legacy do we wish to leave our children and the generations beyond them?"
IF THERE IS EVEN A CHANCE THAT DRACONIAN BURDENS PLACED ON OUR PRODUCTION AND USE OF ENERGY WILL IRREVERSIBLY DAMAGE OUR ECONOMY IT SHOULD BE APPROACHED WITH EDUCATED CAUTION.
And, Ms. Keller, my doubts about the man-caused climate changes are shared by most of the technically educated folk.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2008 at 7:41 pm

I just heard the mayor of Denver say that their economy improved whent they went green, and I have heard similar stories elsewhere. The country of Denmark set the goal of becoming independent of foreign oil many years ago. They have now achieved that with their own oil, gas and wind energy. Their unemployment is less than 2% and their economy has continued to grow for the last 10 years.

Walter, do you have any examples of economies that have been "irreversibly damaged" as a result of pro-environment policies?

What will be the cost to our economy in the long term if we do nothing?


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