If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain
by Gene Franks
As the western United States slowly but surely runs out of water, the same old ideas for saving the nation’s dryest areas keep coming up. See USA Today Unfortunately, not one of the proposed strategies seems to have even the slightest chance of being implemented. The one that actually shows promise, significant water conservation, is too radical to even be considered.
Here are the most commonly suggested nutty ideas, as well as the one that could actually work:
1. Water conservation. This is the one that has been proven to work, but for conservation really to make a dent in the massive water shortage, people would have to be willing to give up things like green lawns and green golf courses and to severely cut back on some of their favorite foods, like hamburgers. In the United States, meat consumption alone accounts for a full 30 percent of our water consumption. Pity the politician who suggests cutting back .
2. Talk Northeasterners into giving up the Great Lakes and moving them, or at least moving their water, to feed into the Colorado River. The problems like building the massive pipelines required and getting the water to flow uphill across the Great Divide still have to be worked out.
3. Building nuclear-powered desalination plants on the coast. These would be, I presume, gigantic water distillers or banks of square mile-sized reverse osmosis units powered by electricity made by nuclear reactors.
4. Harvesting icebergs. This idea has been talked about for decades, but is anyone really serious about it? Towing icebergs to California? And when you run out of icebergs?
5.Chopping down forests. Certainly the worst idea of all. The theory is that since trees use water, cutting down trees would free up water for more golf courses, green lawns, and hamburgers. The 751,000 disadvantages to having fewer trees haven’t been considered.
My own addition to the list is Move people to where the water is. There is plenty of water–it just isn’t where people want it. Most of the solutions listed above are about moving water to where people need it. Would it not be a lot easier to move the people to where the water is? Moving Las Vegas and Phoenix to Michigan or Illinois sounds almost impossible, but would it be any harder than moving Lake Erie and Lake Michigan to the Southwestern desert?
The nutty ideas for saving the Southwest are from USA Today. The sensible plan to move Las Vegas and Phoenix north is my very own.