Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Tom Henry

We shouldn't wait for the tap to go dry

If it's true water is this century's oil, then how can we better manage it?

Hard to say. But the leaders of two esteemed think tanks, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute and Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, have agreed the “era of endless fresh water is coming to an end.”

They claim the traditional reliance on massive reservoirs and water-distribution systems must be augmented by a greater emphasis on projects such as rainwater collection. And that there should be a greater emphasis on reuse and recycling, economic incentives, and water-use efficiency.

So says G. Tracy Mehan III in an upcoming edition of The Environmental Forum, published by the Washington-based Environmental Law Institute. Mr. Mehan was Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes director under former Gov. John Engler. He served as former President George W. Bush's first director of national water programs.

It's hard for many Americans to think of water as a finite resource, especially in the water-rich Great Lakes region.

But not those who intently study the topic. Hence, an interstate compact and a gentleman's agreement with two Canadian provinces that attempts to establish uniform practices in water management, the ultimate hope being that it will keep Great Lakes water from vanishing someday like the former Soviet Union's Aral Sea.

Maude Barlow, named by the United Nations in 2008 as its first senior adviser on water issues, told the Society of Environmental Journalists in October that the world's dwindling supply of water is “the greatest ecological crisis of our time.”

“This global water crisis is coming upon us; I don't care where you live,” Ms. Barlow said. “The world is going to change very quickly over this water crisis.”

A bestselling author, Ms. Barlow chairs Canada's largest activist group, the Council of Canadians, as well as the Washington-based Food & Water Watch.

She noted that 22 African countries face water shortages now, as does Great Britain, Australia, China, India, and the Middle East. America's booming Southwest has been short of water for years; in Florida, sinkholes have opened up because too much groundwater has been extracted.

“We're going to see a huge conflict, plus a huge number of deaths as this water dries up,” Ms. Barlow said.

The changing way in which water is viewed also increases the potential for conflict. Now seen by some businessmen as a tradable commodity, Ms. Barlow views water as one of mankind's greatest humanitarian challenges.

“No one has the right to appropriate it for personal profit while others are dying from a lack of ability to pay for it,” she said. “Martin Luther King once said that legislation may not change the heart, but it will restrain the heartless.”

Palinology: Credit Republicans for Environmental Protection for distributing, if not coining, the word that began this sentence. The group claims former Alaska Gov. and U.S. veep wannabe Sarah Palin showed in her new book, Going Rogue, that she has “a lack of understanding of how the global oil market works and the geopolitical disadvantage that America labors under as a result.”

Harsh words from a group that claims to represent the GOP's moderate, environmentally responsible arm. It predicts OPEC would “leave a barrel of oil in the ground for every barrel of American oil that Palin would drag up from the wilderness,” thereby keeping oil prices up and discouraging America from developing fuel alternatives.

“We can't say for certain what God wants us to do when it comes to oil. Neither can Sarah Palin. We can say for certain, however, what oil-exporting despots want us to do: stay hooked on oil, keeping us over their barrels, long into the future,” the group said.

Contact Tom Henry at:thenry@theblade.comor 419-724-6079.

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