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Friday, April 3, 2015

THE SIMPLE SOLUTION TO WATER IN CALIFORNIA

Water covers 71% of our planet, 96% in the ocean as saltwater.  Our body is 60% water.  If you don't know, you would find it hard to believe where all this liquid came from when our pale blue dot in space called Planet Earth was formed.

Safe drinking water is, certainly, a precious commodity that many tend to take for granted.  However, in the USA, only 6% of all the used water goes to homes.  Of that, only 5% goes to your kitchen, mostly to wash dishes.  In actual fact, we only drink 58 gallons/year, or two thirds of a quart per day.  Thus, it's not a big deal that I have a very simple solution to the water problem in the USA, particularly California, provided in magenta below.

Drinking water in Honolulu costs less than half a cent/gallon.  This is a bit more than what the French pay, while the price in Germany is $0.0075/gallon,   The average in Canada is $0.0015/gallon.  Here is a comparative table:


250
gallons
per
person
per
day
HIGHER
USE
The cost of water versus how much people use
Canada
-and-
200
LOWER
COST
United
States
Australia
150
South
Korea
Italy
Average
100
Japan
Russia
LOWER
USE
HIGHER
COST
-and-
Portugal
Czech 
Republic
France
50
Germany
Poland
Britain
Denmark
0
0
$5
10
15
20
25
30
35
Cost per 1,000 gallons

Just bought the cheapest bottled water I could find near where I live, and I paid close to $2/gallon:  400 times tap water, which is eminently drinkable in this city.  This is yet another insane extravagance, for the world annually pays $100 billion for bottled water, growing at 10%/year.  It gets worse, for purified deep sea water from Hawaii costs around $12.50/gallon, bringing that ratio of bottled water to tapwater up to 2500.  Mind you, in some countries you don't want to drink from the tap.

The situation can get even crazier.  At Honolulu prices, if you divide our price of gasoline ($3/gallon) by that deepsea freshwater cost, you get 0.24.  In Qatar, gasoline costs 90 cents per gallon, while a gallon of water can cost $13/gallon.  Their ratio is 0.07.   This comparison might not mean that much to you, but when I visited Qatar in 2010, here was one of my quotes regarding that country:

 Gasoline is two and a half times cheaper than water.  In the USA, gasoline is two and a half times more expensive than bottled water. 

Wow!  Bottled water in Qatar is now 14 times more expensive that gasoline!!!

The average person drinks less than a quart per day, but we use an average of 170 gallons/day in the U.S., or, according to another source, 300 gallons/day/family.  In Africa?  Five gallons/day/person.  In any case, the drinking part is so small in the U.S. that statisticians catalogue this under other.

Further, domestic use is less than 10%, for electricity production and irrigation use up 80% of the water drawn.  You can actually read these graphs if you click on them.  So, again, the amount of drinking water can easily be doubled in the U.S.--although there could be a minimal added expense to make the fluid drinkable--by adjusting the cost paid by all consumers, especially farmers.

In developing countries:
  • 90% of wastewater is dumped into rivers, streams and the ocean without any treatment
  • the average distance women (note, not men) walk too collect drinkable water is four miles
  • average weight carried on their heads is 44 pounds--try doing this.  
  • in the past decade, unsanitary water has killed more children than all the people lost to armed conflict since World War II
  • amount of water it would take/day to support 4.7 million people at the UN daily minimum = 2.5 billion gallons
  • amount of water/day to irrigate world's golf courses = 2.5 billion gallons
  • Las Vegas uses most the Colorado River water to irrigate golf courses
Which leads me to an almost incredible statement that farmers in California pay $0.0006/gallon ($20/acre-foot) for irrigation water.  Further, it turns out that during the period when Edmund "Pat" Brown was governor, 1959 to 1967 (father of Jerry Brown, who was also governor from 1975-1983, the interim, incidentally, when Ronald Reagan served this role), much of the legislation "protecting" industry's access to freshwater was enacted.  There is no freshwater drinking problem in California.  Change the laws and slightly increase the price to farmers, which will only marginally increase the price for vegetables and such.

Of course, the issue--unlike in developing countries--is not access to potable water.  Much of the ire has to do with watering your lawn.  Certainly, California and our nation at large have a drought problem, but the shortage can mostly be alleviated with a simple re-calculation of water costs to all users.  You think our tax laws are unfathomable?  Water rates in California are enigmatic and beyond comprehension.  Why Governor Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water controls for the first time ever in California makes little sense when there is a more obvious solution.

This not to say that, globally, clean water is not a serious concern, for the UN reports the world could have a 40% water shortfall in 15 years, partly due to global warming, but also to population increase and inefficiencies.  Feel free to read the UNESCO World Water Development Report.

Certainly appreciate the fresh, clean and cheap water currently coming to your tap.  Now and then, though, imagine carrying a 44 pound container of water on your head for four miles, every day, for the rest of your life.

Incidentally, have you ever wondered where all this water  originally came from?  Tomorrow, I'll tell you.

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Should you have been following the progress of Super Typhoon Maysak, computer models show the storm, now still at 100 MPH, weakening to less than hurricane strength, and making landfall with the Philippines Sunday morning, but sufficiently north of Manila:


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