Vail Daily column: A global crisis we can slake
Water should be the least of our world’s major problems in the future.
Yes, I know. I read the same doomsday pieces you do. Freshwater sources are running low. Population is rising. Climate change is heating up. Advancements in the Third World are increasing water consumption. The deserts are growing.
We thirst as always for stories about the worst of cases. We’re sure this time it’s all too true. We scare the crap out of ourselves, as perhaps we should.
But we also should have starved, blown up, nuked, overpopulated, poisoned, polluted, pandemic-ed ourselves out of existence long ago, according to our thoughtful, expert doomsayers of yore.
Only the world has rather steadily improved instead. Of course, the stakes keep growing. We can cause larger destruction more easily with each passing day.
And as we’re reminded in Vail Resorts press releases, past success cannot dictate the future.
Ah, the future. Why am I so sanguine about the water part?
Well, we already have the technology to cope and even to thrive as we haven’t thrived yet. Right now. Cost and our pace of inventiveness will only improve from here. This is inevitable.
Basically, we have no shortage of H2O, the ultimate in recyclable resources. Water covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. We cannot log or mine it away, only move it. It’s very hard to destroy. We drink water molecules billions of years old, much of it older even than the sun. Think about that for a moment.
The real problem is freshwater. That’s what we use up, pollute and thirst for in the dry regions. It’s not the supply of water but its purity and location.
Well, we already know how to make water potable at industrial levels, and we can pipe almost any liquid or gas anywhere on Earth. Desalination plants freckle certain coasts today. Denver drinks water from the other side of the Continental Divide. Phoenix and Las Vegas water comes from afar.
Sure, for now, we turn our noses up at desalination. It’s expensive, maybe doesn’t taste great and we worry about sea life around the plants working today.
Meantime, the poles are melting and oceans rising.
The equation here is simple and doable. This problem lies not in our ability but in our politics. Our need will build the necessary pressure to employ what we already know and can perfect.
I see pipelines bearing freshwater from the coasts or perhaps seawater to inland desalinators, including in the deserts. Food shortages would not be an issue if the deserts bloomed. Desertification would ebb and perhaps reverse in time, independent of drought cycles. And plant growth consumes carbon from the atmosphere.
Let’s take the next inevitable step. The progress in efficiency and cost of solar energy production, combined with the same in battery technology, may well outpace advances in potable water supply. We certainly are paying much more attention right now to energy, a far more complex issue.
And oh, current battery technology uses lithium gleaned from geothermal brine. Sea water also has a lot of lithium. The sludge, as it were, from desalination plants probably can be used more and more productively in all sorts of ways.
Solving the two budding crises in energy and freshwater will ease the pace of global warming, though the consequences of human influence on climate change no doubt will last centuries — an eye blink of the Earth’s timepiece, by the way.
So there you go. Four of our great global challenges solved or well on the way. Boom!
That just leaves, what, asteroids and A.I.?
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at email@example.com and 970-748-2920.