How many of you think about water scarcity? Sure, many of National Driller’s readers count themselves as water professionals. But many of them work in areas where talk of water management doesn’t mean raised voices and lawsuits. For those folks, myself included, we turn on a faucet or drill a hole and water appears. It’s a given.
But areas of the United States wrestle with water availability every day. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar discussed part of the government’s plan for approaching this problem in a report to Congress early this month. A comprehensive update to the National Water Census, Salazar says, offers the basis to “support wise policy and decision-making on water matters.”
The census last got an update in 1978, and a lot changes in 35 years. The U.S. population in 1978 just topped 222 million. By 2012, we hit almost 314 million. While the population went up by more than 40 percent in that time, the available water remains more or less the same.
See a problem there? Interior does. The census aims to help policy people wrap their hands around this issue, particularly in areas like Delaware, Colorado and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins, where scarcity already makes it tough for cooler heads to prevail.
“It’s true in other fields and no less so for water: You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” said Anne Castle, Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Water and Science. “The Water Census will quantify water supply and demand consistently across the entire country, fill in gaps in existing data and make that information available to anyone who needs it-and that represents a huge step forward on the path toward water sustainability.”
The census relies on the concept of “water budgets”-how much flows into an out of a given watershed or aquifer. The most recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey (read it here) likens these budgets to a concept we all relate to: a checking account.
“As with a monetary budget or checking account, knowing where, when, and how much water (or money) is ‘flowing’ into or out of a water budget (or checking account) can illuminate how much is left for other uses (water availability) and reveal where stresses to the budget (the unpaid bills or water shortages) exist or are developing.”
We can only overdraw so much before those bills come due.
Water. Nations fight wars over it. Even states get ruffled about it. Just ask Georgia and Tennessee. It doesn’t have to be that way, and the first step to solving a problem is to identify the problem.
If you haven’t read it already, click over to my interview with Peter Annin, author of “The Great Lakes Water Wars.” We discuss many of these same issues. Buy his book to get a little deeper into this issue.
That’s all for now. Stay safe out there, drillers.