Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 28, 2006

Water Crisis

As the Independent reports, British armed forces are preparing to intervene in future wars over water. Tony Blair will now host a British "crisis summit" about this.

But why is this a British or Western problem?

We do waste a lot of water. A British person uses about 50 gallons of water per day. A U.S. person some 125. A lot of this waste could be helped by better management and a "real" price for water.

But globally, even if waste would be avoided, the coming changes will exceed the resources in many places and lead to serious conflicts.

Some critical points are already visible. Turkey is increasingly using the water of Euphrates and Tigris with harsh consequences for Syria and Iraq. Israel occupies the Golan highs to control water flow. Ethiopia in future will use more Nile water for itself ruining significant parts of agriculture in Egypt's desert plantations.

While past climate changes lead to the migration of a few millions, the coming changes will move tens to hundreds of million people around. Conflicts are thereby guaranteed.

But what are few thousand British/European/Western soldiers to do about this? Why should we intervene at all? How?

If nomads lose their grassland to the desert and move into areas where other people have settled (i.e. Sudan), what can we do about this, except maybe kill either the settlers or the nomads? The grassland will not come back.

Will you send your children to fight Bangladeshi who move north into China or to stop Chinese and Mongols moving into Siberia?

I doubt "values" or "enlightenment" make western societies superior in solving these problems. So what can western armies do about this?

Maybe we could use the chaos to grab some valuables. Now that would be a good reason to get our armies prepared.

Is that what this "crisis meeting" is about?

Posted by b on February 28, 2006 at 18:21 UTC | Permalink


water water everywhere and not a drop to drink, this was my thought b when i read your great post.

Here is my take:

The ancient city of Alexandria, Egypt, recently has been rediscovered underwater. And, of course, the search goes on for the famed lost city of Atlantis. Port Royal, Jamaica, an infamous city in the 17th-century was sunk by an earthquake. However, more recent history also has been subject to underwater excavations.

I reckon water water everywhere, fresh from the sea.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Feb 28 2006 18:36 utc | 1

The peoples armies are being used to protect private ownership 'rights'. This is a prelude to policing 'claim' jumping. It won't be long before an individual will not even be allowed to dig his own well. And, there is nothing we can do about it. Even if another Lenin type were to emerge, the 'Big Money' rulers will simply have him killed before he can organize anything.

Posted by: pb | Feb 28 2006 19:58 utc | 2

And once the War for Water is won, we can start fighting for air...

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 28 2006 20:21 utc | 3

And once the War for Water is won, we can start fighting for air...

The peoples armies are being used to protect private ownership 'rights'.

Aha! I am preparing my patent application on breathable air even as I write this.

My golly, what a good product! Everybodys gotta have it! I will swim in money!

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Mar 1 2006 1:00 utc | 4

It won't be long before an individual will not even be allowed to dig his own well.

Bolivia, right? transnat corp buys water utility and forbids the collection of rain water...? sparks peasant revolt? this year or was it last year?

Posted by: DeAnander | Mar 1 2006 2:00 utc | 5

Reminds one of Brits and salt. How'd they break that one?

Posted by: gylangirl | Mar 1 2006 2:34 utc | 6

yes DeAnander it was bolivia, i first heard about it in another excellent movie the corporation/A>

Posted by: annie | Mar 1 2006 3:37 utc | 7

they just keep expanding pheonix. when i was visiting arizona in the fall, i may have posted about it,i read an article in the local paper down in cochise county near the mexican border, they are putting in another developement w/600 new homes on the outskirts of sierra vista. the area has had a huge growth spurt as a result of ft huachuca expanding. the san">">san pedro river which is now almost completely underground is on the verge of completely drying up. no more water.

where are all the birds that depend on the river going to go? the area is so parched">">parched as it is. they just keep building. the locals are freaking out.

Posted by: annie | Mar 1 2006 3:53 utc | 8

Seeing Phoenix from the air for the first time two years ago has to rank as one of the more frightening experiences of my life.

Annie, your supposed to be working! You promised.

Posted by: Malooga | Mar 1 2006 4:01 utc | 9

pb - already in colorado is it illegal to divert the rainwater coming off your roof into a barrel. it belongs to the senior downstream water rights holders. while the water rights system itself is emminently populist, first come, first saved, the corporatization of it is another matter.

in the state of washington, one city has used an 1895 law to hold-claim unused water rights held by others, lending truth to the phrase, use it, or lose it.

but all that is plainly trivial compared to the privilege that corporations exercise in grossly contaminating our ground water whose water rights we will soon be so vociferously fighting over. even in many rural areas, corporate farms have so polluted the ground water, it is undrinkable.

near us defense bases, the ground water is so contaminated with perchlorate and bizarre chemical warfare precursors that it's not only undrinkable, it's considered hazardous waste.

many new urbanizing developments are considering piping recycled water for lawn and washdown, from the sewage treatment plant back to your home, after a hugely expensive cleanup process. all the house faucets are labeled NON-POTABLE DO NOT DRINK, but what if you don't speak english?

interestingly, water utilities take advantage of aged-in-amber tort laws which say they need only provide reasonable treatment and aren't held liable if you get sick from drinking the water.

now comes coca-cola to the rescue~ where would you like a drink today?

to me the funniest part is this. if the utility has to drain a water reservoir of chlorinated drinking water, under current environmental laws, which seem to conveniently look the other way for corporate polluters, the municipality must first neutralize the chlorine, otherwise the drinking water in the tank is classified as hazardous.

then comes new research into sewage plants and landfills, recirculating the wastes for methane and eventually turning all that into compost, however, under environmental laws, you can't use the compost because it is hazardous to ground water, unlike us defense and industry polluters.

g-d, what a clusterf--k american life has become.

and while we're on that subject, power utilities are studying on reducing voltage to save energy, which saves your lightbulbs and your wallet, since you are charged by voltage times how fast the little wheel spins around, but the lower voltage might take longer to download this post. (smile, i make a joke)

Posted by: Larry Ellison | Mar 1 2006 4:30 utc | 10

malooga, that was 8 hrs ago! i loaded the kiln. i can't work at night! i'm way too lazy for that.

Posted by: annie | Mar 1 2006 4:41 utc | 11

great post, Oracle (Larry Ellison).

already in colorado is it illegal to divert the rainwater coming off your roof into a barrel.

Sheesh, in the Caribean, that was our ONLY drinking water, frogs and all.

Posted by: Malooga | Mar 1 2006 4:58 utc | 12

And don't foget the clothesline laws making it illegal to use solar/wind power to dry your clothes.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Mar 1 2006 5:10 utc | 13

Meanwhile, among the increasingly sane,

Tree people demonstrates the technical and economic feasibility (and desirability) of retrofitting a city to function as an urban forest watershed.

Integrated resource planning -- coupled with whole system economic analysis that showed significantly lower capital costs and operating costs -- didn't persuade the powers that be. What did persuade was a demonstration project. TreePeople retrofitted a single family house, on a typical lot, to capture rainwater and store it in a below ground cistern, invited the public agencies that hadn't been persuaded by the plan, and held a flash flood in full view of the media, of course -- dumping 4,000 gallons of water on the home in five minutes. Not a drop ran off the site.

"It opened people's minds to integration," Andy reported. The water district official, who had been unconvinced , told Andy "now I get it" -- and went on to freeze a $50 million storm drain project to try this approach instead, at watershed scale. After two years of feasibility studies, and a four year planning process, the project was approved last June with a $200 million capital budget -- and projected savings of $300 million.

But this is just a bigger pilot. TreePeople's goal is all of LA, and they're now "installing a citywide system across Los Angeles of cisterns and infiltrators to help capture water runoff and recharge the aquifer - just like a mature oak tree."
T.R.E.E.S. in LA

Posted by: jj | Mar 1 2006 7:53 utc | 14

Reminds one of Brits and salt. How'd they break that one?

Just in case this is not a rethoric question (it is really hard to know on the net), they organized and broke the law collectively. The hard part is always making sure enough people do it at the same time.

Anyhow I have got a lot of frozen water outside. It also doubles as building material for igloos and snowpersons. The temperature is just around freezing so it is right now at perfect weapons grade quality.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Mar 1 2006 12:11 utc | 15

@skod: What would Smilla call it? ;)

Posted by: beq | Mar 1 2006 14:54 utc | 16

With global warming becoming a reality, there may be nothing to worry about. Warmer temperatures mean more oceanic evaporation which means more rain in fact enough rain to refill all the depleted reservoirs and the aqifers and enough left over to burst all the levees and dikes and wash out all the nice lawns that have been sown over the last century or so and maybe the Sahara and all the deserts of the world will bloom again and the oxygen-carbondioxide ratio will be returned to normal and the poles will freeze over again and... and...

Posted by: pb | Mar 1 2006 23:46 utc | 17

Since smilla and I are from different snowcultures (northern Sweden and Greeland) I am not sure, but where I come from we would say kramsnö (squeeze-snow) as it holds its shape when you squeeze it to a snowball. Today is a little bit chillier and we have mostly lössnö (loose-snow), though there is also otheer kinds of snow present (it gains deiffernet qualities depending on the weather-conditions when it fell and what has happened with it since).

Posted by: A swedish kind of death | Mar 2 2006 15:15 utc | 18

When I lived in lower Manhattan, snow, as everything else, was viewed as an aesthetic event.

The rare blizzard would bring a pristine whiteness, a silence, a calmness, to the city, like a prayer at easter. There was a reassuring sense of the medicinal, the therapeutic, in the cotton ball whiteness and fluffiness of it. Dignified business types would revert to a repressed wilder side and roll in it in full suits, skirts, high heels. The very soul of the city was redeemed.

As the days went by, the snow would slowly transmogrify. The second day, you would no longer need your sunglasses: the shocking whiteness was gone. The snow was piled into hummocks wherever space permitted.

By the third day, the snow would take on a decidedly grayish cast. The tint would deepen over suceeding days; the snow began to appear like intricate newsprint collage.

Ignominous clumps of brown would appear among the shrinking haystacks. Every so often, there would be an angry smear, a brushstroke of gaudy de Kooning mustard where some rushing foot had misstepped.

A thaw would bring a new element to the mix. The grayness would collect, and puddle up into dalmation spots. The snow would become a Jackson Pollack composition in black and white, and unfortunately, brown.

As the days went by, the snow began collecting objects, some ordinary like the blue plastic top of a water bottle or a gum wrapper; some fantastical, causing you to stop, squat down, and examine the thing. Could you even identify it? Was it some melted lipstick, or a deliberate streak of paint? A cockroach or a morsel of food? What part of a car or truck could this convoluted piece of metal be? Now you had a sort of Motherwell assemblege, some things glued on top, and some embedded within the matrix that the snow had become.

It was now hard to call the thing snow at all, just as you cannot call gesso a painting. But it was shrinking, concentrating, intensifying, becoming surreal.

Then a rain would come and wipe the entire canvas clean. The objects, slowly overcome by the power of water, would gather in rivulets and colorfully parade their way to the sewer grates.

A freeze would follow. You were left with broad raised random crossing brushstrokes of semi-transparent ice, a Franz Kline in negative upon the gray pavemment.

Then, one day you notice that the snow is gone. The black soot and grit remains, a pall, among the chic black clad New York figures rushing to and fro. The vast color field that had shimmered like an obsession before your eyes has finally been rationalized, and you are left with your last composition, an enduring one: Ad Reinhart’s Black Painting No. 34

Posted by: Malooga | Mar 2 2006 16:37 utc | 19

Ahhhh Malooga. You have the heart and soul of a poet. I'm saving that. Anyone who knows me at all, knows I'm a total freak about snow. I've always said it purges my soul [about as much as it can be cleansed ;)].

I have a friend in N.C. whose neighbor is like me. One night in winter it had snowed in the nearby mountains and her husband took his pickup to the hills and filled it with snow. He came home and spread it across the front yard. Now THAT is love!

Thanks for the lesson askod. I'll take any kind.

Posted by: beq | Mar 2 2006 17:37 utc | 20

@pb With global warming becoming a reality, there may be nothing to worry about. Warmer temperatures mean more oceanic evaporation which means more rain in fact enough rain to refill all the depleted reservoirs and the aqifers and enough left over to burst all the levees and dikes

Problem is the rain would not be where it is now. The Sahara may get more water but the rain forest in Brasil may get less.

People, and that means tens of millions, will have to move. An unprecedented global social event that will start quite fast but will take centuries to settle.

Posted by: b | Mar 2 2006 21:08 utc | 21

funny that Phoenix should come up. What blew me away was that when I moved there from San Diego, my water bill DROPPED 75%! They're currently 120+ days without rain, and according to my friends back there, no one's as concerned as they really should be. Everyone still washes their H2 in their grassy front yard before throwing the clubs in the back and going to one of the 100 (!) golf courses within a 90 minute drive.

I'd be curious to see a stat on how many gallons of water it would save if golf courses could only use rainwater for irrigation.

Posted by: dave | Mar 3 2006 17:32 utc | 22

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