Monday, October 22, 2007

Desalination and My Grandchildren

I am sitting here at my desk this morning after having read two of the most thought-provoking and disturbing stories in a long time. The topic in both articles was water. According to one story the water level in the Great Lakes is near an all-time low causing such problems as requiring freighters to reduce the size of the cargoes so that they won't run aground. A five year $17 million dollar study to be completed in 2012 will apparently tell us whether this problem is due to nature's cyclical effect or global warming. (A combination of both I would surmise. Where do I send the bill?) The second story was about the looming catastrophe for those (nine states) who are dependent on the Colorado River for their water supply. Farmers, cities, manufacturers and others have apportioned (after much legal wrangling) the current supply among themselves to the last drop. The supply is dwindling, but the need as a result of continued population growth will increase greatly over the next twenty to thirty years. I tried a case in Salt Lake City about ten years back and the federal judge on the case told me during a break that fifty percent of all the litigation heard by federal courts in the western United States involved battles over rights to Colorado River water. That was before the subject of global warming became a topic of dinner table discussion. Common sense and my basic, but inconsiderable math skills, tell me that if the water source that is available now is all there is ever going to be, something must be done to meet the demand. The rest of this diatribe is a message for my grandchildren akin to the advice offered in The Graduate; one word career advice- "Plastics". My career advice is "Desalination". With nearly 70% of the earth's surface taken up by salt water, there has to be a way to economically remove the salt and make the water available to meet the rising demand. Without delving into the topic, I suspect that a method, or methods, have already been devised to do so. I would imagine that a combination of scientific background coupled with the ability to manage people, ideas and negotiate at the national level with an altruistic eye on the ultimate goal to be achieved would be sufficient background for one, or all, of my eight grandchildren to receive the Nobel Prize in 2034.

1 comment:

Mandy said...

I read the same disturbing article (was it the NYT supplement?) I am happy to see that the word is getting out. Mother nature has a way to "desalinate" it's called the water cycle. Salt doesn't evaporate so if we stop covering our beautiful earth with impenetrable contrete and polluting our yards and watersheds with unnecessary chemicals then our ground water from precipitation could be used and treated much more economically. Americans also must learn to make choices. We can't have it all. The perfect lawn is not as important as many necessities. During my only visit to one of those 8 "dry" states, I observed countless new neighborhoods with green lawns in the middle of the dessert. That's just being silly and selfish. Our average use should be way below 120 gallons per day. I have been saying for years that Michigan economy should depend on it's liquid gold to drive it into the 21st century NOT the auto industry. Obviously the latter has left Michiganders high and dry. Now we are here surrounded by liquid gold. Are we taking care of it? Are we capitalizing on it? NO, we are stuck in the dark ages letting industry (notably petroleum companings and the shipping industry) continue to abuse it. It has improved but like the NYT indicates time is running out.