Energy scarcity warps society in so many ways, but the crisis that a water shortage could bring is exponentially worse. Libertarian-Socialists understand that nuclear power is a good idea that environmentalists should embrace. However, there is another reason to embrace fission. Its implementation brings a lot more juice into the electrical grid. California could use that extra electricity to help bring a solution to its growing water problems.
Any doubts about the state of water quality in America should be dispelled by the statistics on how much bottled water Americans are drinking. Only those that cannot afford anything else drink tap water regularly in America. Those individuals, like the people of Flint, Michigan, may be sacrificing their health by doing so. Americans pay taxes for water treatment and safe drinking water, but most Americans do not believe that tap water is safe.
The horrible water treatment scandal in Flint has brought the issue of drinking water to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness for the first time since the Tennessee Valley Authority. The TVA electrified rural America and stopped the periodic flooding that plagued the region stabilizing drinking water supplies. Scientific analysis of water quality in America certainly confirms the existence of drug residues in water samples all across America. The American government has admitted that America’s water supply contains trace amounts of many polysyllabic chemicals and drugs.
As bad as the current situation is the future may be much worse. Minor pollutants in the water may not matter in the future, because just having water that is treatable will be a problem. Global climate change is playing havoc with the twentieth century water distribution networks of dams and aqueducts, such as the TVA.
Dams in the West, no longer work as designed, due to the early snow melts that are now occurring. Even in years where the Sierra and Rockies get the expected amounts of snow pack, early spring rains and warming melts the snow pack much faster than in the past. Water that will be needed in the warm summer months has to be released because the dam fills too soon. Not only that, the West’s many hydroelectric dams produce much less power under these climate conditions. That means there is even greater need for fission to make up the difference without spewing more pollutants into the air.
Instead of a slower melt that allows spring usage to draw down the reservoir to make room for subsequent late spring melting, the fast melts mean the dam fills too fast and cannot be drawn down over time. Additional snow melt ends up in the ocean, because there is no room. Then in the summer, reservoirs are lower than they otherwise would have been. That can mean there is no late spring melt water to quench the summer and autumn thirst. Or water to release from hydroelectric dams to power air conditioners in the hot summer months.
As California wrestles with many issues, the crisis in water quality and availability sneaks its way up the priority list as the facts are surfaced. Widespread water shortages seem almost a certainty sometime in the future. It really depends upon when a long enough drought hits a large region of the nation. Droughts are coming more often and are getting longer in the West. One can conclude that eventually the current infrastructure will be overwhelmed.
There is only one way to deal with this situation and that is to build desalinization plants. How many California will need depends on how much climate changes affect the American continent’s rainfall patterns. Desalinization plants are very expensive in dollars and energy terms. It takes an enormous amount of energy to desalinate seawater. Nuclear power will allow the state to have the necessary energy to run these desalinization plants at some kind of reasonable price.
Desalinization has become the only answer. Not only has global climate change affected California’s water supplies, there has been foolish destruction of the state’s own fresh water supplies. Fresh water has been lost due to the pollution of groundwater by dependence on polysyllabic chemicals and fossil fuels. MTBEs have destroyed groundwater supplies all over California. These chemicals were meant to help gasoline burn cleaner and, therefore, reduce air pollution. Air pollution has been reduced, but at the expense of groundwater, a fool’s bargain.
Fracking being used to extract natural gas might reduce air pollution as well, but the groundwater risks created by fracking are huge. Enormous amounts of chemically treated water injected into cracks in the bedrock cannot be controlled despite industry promises to the contrary. Discussions of how the waste water is controlled are fantasies at best.
The fracking risk to the groundwater supply would seem to rule it out as a normal and common practice. Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry has powerful lobbyists in its favor. The oil drilling and exploration companies certainly are eager to see natural gas and fuel cells be embraced. It allows them to continue their business model unchanged into a warmer future.
California’s needs abundant water for irrigation of the enormous tracts of arable lands. Water is one of California’s great blessings. California has squandered the resource and may never enjoy the same abundance due to climate change and negligence. California needs climate change to be mitigated, because one of the pillars of the state’s greatness is a favorable climate. Desalinization plants will allow continued irrigation of farmlands, as climate change could severely reduce California rainfall totals.
Given the long-term advantages that climate has provided California, preventing large-scale climate change is strongly in the state’s interest. There are some ways, all of them expensive, to handle this environmental crisis. Controlling the climate is beyond current scientific abilities, but the nation can seek to ally itself with those that have been the great climate moderators of history: plant life. Plants and trees filter the atmosphere and transform it by producing oxygen from carbon dioxide and water. They can help tamp down the urban heat islands that have been created within cities as well.
A large program dedicated to the replanting of native species in the many different microclimates that make up the state can help stabilize the state’s climate. Because normal rainfall patterns will likely be changing, California may need to irrigate new native stands of trees. It will take decades for the trees to have a positive effect on climate. These huge stands of native plant life will also act as a buffer to pollution that the Asian continent will surely be sending east as these economies continue to expand exponentially. Desalinization plants can facilitate irrigation of large areas that the state must return to its native flora to mitigate climatological disaster.
Additionally, there is a growing salinity problem in the state’s soil. Irrigation, repeated fertilizer use, and population growth have put enormous pressure on the fertile, rich California farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley. The earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia were based on irrigated farmlands. It was the salinity in their soils that ended the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent after centuries of prosperity. The world now knows these fertile lands to be desertified Iraq.
Desalinization plants will help flush the salt out of soils over time. It will cost billions to pull it off, but it will gradually pay dividends and, in the end, preserve California’s climate advantage. With so much money necessary to pull this off, citizens will need to be heavily involved to give politicians the will to spend the money and make an investment that will not have any short-term benefits. There will be huge dividends over the long run, though.
This plan for the state’s water infrastructure will preserve California’s climate advantage and prevent it being burned to ashes by the neglect of others.