Monday, November 05, 2007

The Worst Case

Here's a story from the AP that appeared in the International Herald Tribune

Worst-case scenario in the US South:
Tennessee town has run out of water, must truck it in
The Associated Press
Published: November 3, 2007

ORME, Tennessee:

As twilight falls over this Tennessee town, Mayor Tony Reames drives up a dusty dirt road to the community's towering water tank and begins his nightly ritual in front of a rusty metal valve.

With a twist of the wrist, he releases the tank's meager water supply, and suddenly this sleepy town is alive with activity. Washing machines whir, kitchen sinks fill and showers run.

About three hours later, Reames will return and reverse the process, cutting off water to the town's 145 residents.

The severe drought tightening like a vise across the Southeast has threatened the water supply of cities large and small, sending politicians scrambling for solutions. But Orme, which sits near the border with Alabama about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chattanooga, is a town where the worst-case scenario has already come to pass:

The water has run out.

The mighty waterfall that fed the mountain hamlet has been reduced to a trickle, and now the creek running through the center of town is dry.

Three days a week, the volunteer fire chief hops in a 1961 fire truck at 5:30 a.m. — before the school bus stopping and starting blocks the narrow road — and drives a few miles to an Alabama fire hydrant. He meets with another truck from nearby New Hope, Alabama. The two drivers make about a dozen runs back and forth, hauling about 20,000 gallons (75,000 liters) of water from the hydrant to Orme's tank. (clip)

"I feel for the folks in Atlanta," Reames says, referring to the Georgia metropolis fast running out of water. "We can survive. We're 145 people. You've got 4.5 million people down there. What are they going to do? It's a scary thought."

And, according to these figures from the Atlanta Water Shortage web site, unless there is a letup in the drought, the folks in Atlanta are looking at a dead pool of water by next August. Like Mayor Reames says, What are they going to do?

Out West, Lake Meade is now more than 100 feet below the remarkable Hoover Dam. True, it has been this low before, but only once when Lake Powell was being filled.

"The melting snow on the western slopes of the Rockies feeds into the Colorado River to flow west and south, across parts of Colorado, Utah and Arizona, and, since the construction of the dam, into Lake Mead, some 30 miles east of that study in population explosion, Las Vegas. The lake’s water level has risen and fallen, like a sleeping man’s chest, but never has the drop been quite like this."

“Lake Mead is at 49 percent of capacity,” says Scott Huntley, spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. In other words: half empty."

Even the Great Lakes are having their problems:

"The Great Lakes -- particularly Superior -- already are having a very large problem with loss of water" from drought and evaporation linked to global warming, said state Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, one of the chief authors of the legislation to ratify the compact. "It's had a huge impact on the shipping industry."

Apparently, as the level of the lake drops, ships must carry less cargo, thus requiring more ships and more time and more fuel.

"Water levels in the Great Lakes are falling; Lake Ontario, for example, is about seven inches below where it was a year ago. And for every inch of water that the lakes lose, the ships that ferry bulk materials across them must lighten their loads by 270 tons — or 540,000 pounds — or risk running aground, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association, a trade group for United States-flag cargo companies. "

As a result, more ships are needed, adding millions of dollars to shipping companies operating costs, experts in maritime commerce estimate."

Lester Browne says in his Plan B, 2.0 that:

Two household appliances, toilets and showers, together account for over half of indoor water use. Whereas traditional flush toilets used 6 gallons (or 22.7 liters) per flush, the legal U.S. maximum for new toilets is 1.6 gallons (6 liters).

An Australian-produced toilet with a dual-flush two-button technology uses only 1 gallon for a liquid waste flush and 1.6 gallons for a solid waste flush. Shifting from a showerhead flowing at 5 gallons per minute to a 2.5 gallons-per-minute model cuts water use nearly in half.

With washing machines, a horizontal axis design developed in Europe uses 40 percent less than the traditional top-loading models. In addition, this European model now being marketed internationally also uses less energy. "

In our town, we saw the Highland Lakes that provide our water supply go to record levels and then whammo, we got enough rain to fill them up in a matter of weeks. So we're good to go for another 2 years. But we already have all kinds of water rules in place, as well as city wide incentives to install water saving fixtures and washing machines.

Maybe Atlanta will get the rains we got.

Maybe Atlanta and Las Vegas will end up like Orme.

But the worst case will not be trucking the water in.

For there are not enough trucks in the universe,

or oil in the mideast, or nearby water to employ the "Orme solution".

Maybe then,

When it comes to Climate Change and Resource Depletion,

We'll act as if our very lives are at stake.

Because they are.


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Blogger Charlie Loving said...

The rains we got (past tense). The forecast for the near future is not one of abundant precip. In fact the weather will remain dry as long as "La Nina" is present along the Equator west of Peru. It may be a long dry winter for all concerned.

i recall a time when we had a house out back that we used for our business as it was called and we dropped in a half tin of quick lime instead of flushing. Grandmother swept the yardwith a broom. No grass to consume water. Water went for the garden which fed us.

We may have to take a giant leap backwards.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Chapichupandra said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken its Australian who invented this useful Dual Flash toilets. This new technology conserve almost 70% of water from the normal toilets

9:11 PM  

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