(note: the following is a guest post by AWS reader S. Corey Thomas)
A recent edition of Fresh Air on NPR featured an interview with Peter Gleick, a MacArthur Fellow and co-founder of the non-partisan environmental think-tank, The Pacific Institute . Since 1998, Gleick has assessed the state of global water resources in a biennial report, The World’s Water. The fifth volume in this acclaimed series is now available, with a focus on the implications between water and terrorism and the increasing risks of flood and drought due to climate change and excessive development.
In this interview, Peter Gleick discusses the water crisis that looms over many areas of the United States, including Atlanta and the drought-stricken southeast. The difficulties of desalination are explored, as well as the environmental costs of bottled water versus tap water. Gleick notes that, in many places in the US, we have reached the limits of growth against the constraints of freshwater supplies. Atlanta would do well to pay attention to his message.
Below are some excerpts from the interview:
“The opportunity to build new dams and new reservoirs is pretty much gone. We’ve built on the good dam sites, and unfortunately some of the bad dam sites as well. We’re going to have to rethink the way we use the existing resources we have. There may be places to build new infrastructure, but I actually think the 21st century is going to be — in the United States especially — a century of water management, and smart use, and rethinking allocations of water from one user to another, and figuring out how to use the infrastructure we’ve built better.”
“In the past, the attitude has been ‘Build it, and we’ll figure out a way to get the water there.’ And that worked, to some degree, in the 20th century, but it’s not gonna work in the 21st century. There isn’t any more water. We’re at the limits of our resources here. And we’re not gonna go to Canada or Alaska, we’re not gonna desalinate seawater infinitely and move it to Las Vegas — it’s too far and too expensive. And so, the idea that we can grow without thinking about the resources that are available for that growth is an old idea, and it’s not going to work any longer.”
S. Corey Thomas