Wednesday, September 28, 2022

PBS Terra asks 'What Will Life Look Like as MAJOR Rivers Run Dry?'

There's something in the air, and it's not just water vapor that isn't condensing and precipitating to Earth. Since I posted Vox asks and answers 'Who's really using up the water in the American West?', PBS Terra posed its own version of that question, asking What Will Life Look Like as MAJOR Rivers Run Dry?

Rivers and reservoirs around the world are drying up this summer as record droughts rage on. Lake Mead along the Colorado, the largest reservoir in the nation, hit record lows. And experts fear the dreaded deadpool – where the reservoir can no longer provide water or hydropower to downstream communities – may only be a couple years away. The Yangtze river in China, the world’s 3rd largest by volume, got so low that Sichuan province experienced rolling blackouts as hydropower had to be severely rationed. And the Danube that runs through eastern Europe is currently at half its usual levels for this time of year.

So what does all of this mean? In short, it means that, as global warming continues, we are going to continue seeing record droughts and many places are, simply, going to have to live with far less water. But, more specifically, it means we are going to need to innovate both how cities and agriculture do business. In this episode of Weathered we discuss how the vast majority of water is actually used in agriculture and how the greatest gains in water use efficiency will have to come from irrigation.

Weathered is a show hosted by weather expert Maiya May and produced by Balance Media that helps explain the most common natural disasters, what causes them, how they’re changing, and what we can do to prepare.
PBS Terra presented a more nuanced set of solutions than Vox did, including using more efficient technologies for irrigation and showing how Las Vegas has done a surprisingly good job of water conservation — it's better for the city and its residents that they stop being in denial that they live in a desert — while Vox emphasized that beef is bad for the planet. PBS Terra didn't go that far, leaving that for its viewers to figure that out for themselves. Still, it pointed out that agriculture is the major user of water, showing a graph like the following.

As I wrote yesterday, "It takes a lot of water to grow our food, especially in warm, dry climates like the western U.S."

I close today's post by repeating that this situation serves as an example for three of Commoner's Laws: Everything is connected to everything else, there is no free lunch, and nature knows best. Here's to finding a nature knows best solution to the problem that works for the most people.

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