Cutting you off

The Water knife

By

Paolo Bacigalupi

A NetGalley Review

 

The Southern USA has lost its battle with water profligacy and has become the desert it once was.

The Colorado River is even more embattled than it currently is and water is in such short supply that control over it is maintained by armies of private mercenaries who cut supply to towns as legal battles are waged.colorado 300px-ColoradoTexas_Watershed

This story is an extension of the current situation in the Southern States where already the Colorado River shows signs of running dry as is documented by Peter McBride and the National Smithsonian Magazine.

They say:

The Colorado River is the seventh largest river in the U.S., … It is also one of the most diverted, silted, and heavily litigated rivers in the world. The farmers and residents of the rapidly growing western states rely on the river for irrigation, drinking water, and electricity. This demand has permanently altered the river’s ecology. http://www.petemcbride.com/coloradoriver/

Beginning in the 1920s, Western states began divvying up the Colorado’s water, building dams and diverting the flow hundreds of miles, to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and other fast-growing cities. The river now serves 30 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico, with 70 percent or more of its water siphoned off to irrigate 3.5 million acres of cropland.

Climate change will likely decrease the river’s flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 years, says geoscientist Brad Udall, director of the University of Colorado Western Water Assessment. Less precipitation in the Rocky Mountains will yield less water to begin with. Droughts will last longer. Higher overall air temperatures will mean more water lost to evaporation.

The Colorado no longer regularly reaches the sea.

Invasive plants, such as salt cedar and cattails, now dominate the delta, a landscape of seemingly endless mud flats where forests used to stand. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-colorado-river-runs-dry-

When we visited California ourselves we saw the dry and arid dust bowls that were created by the diversions – areas that were once farms in a desert. We also saw Californians watering lawns daily or twice daily in temperatures of over 30 degrees and planting water thirsty plants rather than aloes and agaves and cacti which would survive better as this is their native habitat.  So the outcome proposed in this book is, in many ways, not such an extension of what we can expect to be reality in not so many years in the future.

The self-contained blocks described in the book were an interesting application of modern technology which permits water recycling and conservation – we ourselves could have a grey water system installed from our rainwater conservation but at the present we don’t need to.

And we already see buildings like  the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design with six stories, 50,000 square feet, that won’t use a single watt of electricity from the grid, nor a drop of water from downtown Seattle – using ground pumps for heating and rainwater.

There is also a set of regulations in existence that govern a living building design but with water being provided by rainwater rather than river water

So the book started well but then got repetitive as we needed to move from what is a very real tomorrow possibility further into the future. I got bored around 50-60% through so I have downgraded this from 4 stars to 3.

 

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