Water at Risk

As a former resident of Kanab, now living in Wisconsin, I still follow Kanab via my SUN subscription. Sky Chaney’s well-done LTE, on selling Kanab’s drinking water, was very succinct … “just say no to selling our drinking water.” While it is Kanab’s choice, remaining silent is not the answer. I encourage you to speak up!  More on water later.

On April 22, Earth Day, I gave a 90 minute presentation on “Climate Change … Socio-economic Peril” to 100 people in Menomonie, WI. Within that presentation I showed 131 slides.  Many of them required only a few seconds each, to make a point.  For others I spent appreciable time discussing the most critical points.  I moved quickly and with purpose, and I covered a wide range of issues.

Some of them being: (1) a tripling of global population, and a seven-fold energy consumption, in my 74 years, (2) consuming half our “450 million years” of fossil fuel creation in an eye-blink 250 years, with most of that “half” being consumed in the last generation, (3) an overview of the science, (4) progress and projections for renewables, (5) coal is rapidly dying, (6) comparative carbon footprints of nations around the globe, with the USA being the most gluttonous, on a per capita basis, (7) In the last 40 years CO2 has increased at a rate 125 times faster than at any time during the previous 800,000 pre-industrial revolution years, (8) in those same 800,000 years, CO2 never exceeded 300ppm, yet  today we are at 413 ppm, (9) the global ice melt rate is equal to “seven Niagara Falls” running constantly, (10) with Antarctica melting 6 times faster than in the 1980s, (11) the 2019 World Economic Forum (held annually in Davos, Switzerland) examined the 30 highest global risks (these encompassed economic, geopolitical, environmental, societal, and technological issues) … alarmingly, 5 of the top 7 risks are environmental … number “one” was extreme weather events … number “two” was man’s failure of climate change mitigation, (12) if they were a country, cattle would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, (13) the land required to feed each meat eater annually: 3 acres … for each vegan: 1/6 acre, (14) 92% of man’s water footprint is for food production, (15) it requires 630 gallons of water to produce a typical hamburger, (16) our oceans are 30% more acidic since the industrial revolution, a level not seen in 300 million years, (17) our coral reefs account for 1/10 of one percent of our ocean’s area, yet they host 25% of the ocean’s biodiversity; our crucial coral reefs are dying, (17) With the relative weight of Earth being 1,000,000,000, our oceans are 22,000, our atmosphere is 900, our accessible fresh water is 150, and our topsoil is “1” … globally we are losing 24 billion tons of topsoil annually … at that rate, in another 30 years we will have 15% less topsoil than today, but two billion more people needing to be fed, (18) the Amazon rainforest, the “lungs of our planet,” is disappearing at the rate of six acres per minute, (18) during the first 23 months of Trump’s administration, 78 EPA regulations have been eliminated, putting our air, water, and soil at deeper risk; yet he brags of these as being “accomplishments,” (20) in 2018 the USA saw a 3.4% increase in CO2 emissions, a move in the opposite direction as the Paris Accord target, (19) Earth “overshoot” day continues to worsen, it was Aug 1, in 2018 … we are now consuming our planet’s resources at the rate of 1.7 planet Earths, (21) Conservative think tanks have created 195 climate myths, designed to misinform and confuse we Americans, to “help” deny the factual science, which 97% of the world’s climate scientists have been telling us for decades.

I shared much more, but I will stop and shift to the “water” information I shared in my presentation, since it was Mr. Chaney’s “water” letter that spurred me.

Per capita, global water consumption has doubled in the past century, and within another decade, 2/3 of the world’s population will be water-stressed.

Fresh water makes up a very small fraction of all water on the planet. While nearly 70 percent of the world’s surface is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh. Even then, just one percent of our fresh water is accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields. In essence, only a miniscule 0.007 percent of the planet’s total water is available to fuel and feed its 7.7 billion people.

Doing the math, that is equal to 22,339 cubic miles of available fresh water. With Lake Superior holding 2,903 cubic miles, a little more math shows there is a one Lake Superior equivalency for each one billion people on the planet. Combined, North and South America has one billion people. I will use that Lake Superior analogy for those one billion.

Checking Lake Superior’s data/facts, the flow from the lake, via the Soo Locks, is 3.42 cubic miles per year. So to sustain a full Lake Superior, we can only draw slightly more than 1/10 of one percent of the Lake’s total volume. Clearly, sustainability of that water reservoir is a very delicate proposition, and that is likely on par with most water resources. We can’t simply put countless “straws” into a reservoir and draw upon those straws with abandon! Every action has consequences! One must scientifically analyze … “what is the sustainability of any reservoir?”

I suggest for each citizen of Kanab to ask your city leaders to examine your water situation with scrutiny. That your leaders are saying the city is “only” going to sell 6% of its allotment per year, inferring that “6% is not much,” my reply is “Really??!!” If the Lake Superior analogy of exceeding 1/10 of one percent is “too much,” then I would say be very cautious before you say, “go ahead and sell Kanab’s 6%.” Of course Lake Superior and Kanab’s water are different “animals,” but a sixty-fold difference should raise a few eyebrows. As a reminder, the proposed water sale is to promote more fossil fuel consumption; a double whammy!

By the way, for the Lake Superior analogy, one billion people equates to a per capita usage of 10 gallons per day. Each Ethiopian uses 3 gallons per day; each Britain uses 31 gallons per day; each American uses 151 gallons per day. With Kanab’s population near 5,000, each citizen is using 315 gallons per day, twice the national average.

In closing, I would be remiss if I did not comment on the proposed Lake Powell pipeline.

Since Powell became “full” in 1981, working in tandem with Lake Mead, those two lakes have been continually diminishing in volume the past 38 years; now the lakes are at half volume. During these decades the lakes have been stressed, the population of the southwest is increasing, and yet there are those who are advocating “putting more straws” into a lake that is clearly far beyond sustainability. But then, those are the same people who would deny all that I shared in this letter.  It seems “hoax” is the accepted argument these days!  We are living in perilous times; you can’t drink oil!

Steve Hogseth
Menomonie, WI