Changing Approach to Water

Not that we can sneak up on it, but getting used to dealing with the implications of its scarcity. Even if not directly, though every region will have its bouts with drought and flirtations with conservation, fallout from water shortages range far and wide, as the situations in Kenya and Mexico attest. And voila, it’s not just a shortage of rainfall but a dynamic mixture of poor planning and short-sightedness that builds in non-trivial amounts of waste into our concepts of ‘use’:

Mexico’s hurricane season has been mild, with no major hits so far this summer, though a weak Hurricane Jimena dropped plenty of rain on parts of Baja California and the northwestern state of Sonora last week. The sparse rainfall nationwide has made 2009 the driest in 69 years of government record-keeping, Arreguin said.

Even before the drought, managing water was one of the most vexing issues for Mexico City, which 500 years ago was a big lake. Now paved in asphalt and concrete, the city pipes in much of its water (then, through separate plumbing, expels wastewater to prevent flooding during rainy times).

Since most rainwater pours down storm drains into the sewer network, it is not absorbed into the underground aquifers that are the city’s main source of water. Decades of over-pumping is emptying those deposits and causing Mexico City to sink, in some places by more than a foot a year.

So… just so you know, there’s no sitting back and feeling bad for those poor people in a “but for the Grace of God… ” kind of way. Sorry, all out of isolated, unconnected events. Come back next… time? To recap, we are subject to not just immediate, local effects but larger pressures on surrounding ecosystems and political systems which emerge, gain strength and ripple outward. How do we study, learn about and prepare for how these things work together? Do we? Perhaps a better question would be how can we understand these kinds of long-term phenomena when we’re more concerned with fanning debates about evolution, gay marriage, presidential birth certificates and other ‘issues’ I largely ignore on this site in favor of more problematic, actual problems? Alas, there’s a short answer.

Update: as I wanted or needed further evidence.