Water problems have been around for ages

The water issues that have been plaguing Flint, Michigan residents are not new. Our planet has had water (and sewage) issues dating back to when people gathered together in villages. In Steven Solomon’s book calledWater: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization” he describes how the mastery over water resources kept leaders of civilizations in power. The needed mastery revolved around water to drink and bathe in, water to carry sewage away, water for transportation and trade and water for naval control.

Here are a few examples to illustrate this point.

  • Every major city has had water/ sewage issues. In London in the 1850s, a  major problem came to a head which was called the Big Stink. The planners had sewage lines dropping waste into the Thames. When cholera and dysentery epidemics broke out, initially, the planners thought these were air borne diseases. But, when they realized a brewery, where employees drank free beer, had only minimal breakout, they realized the diseases were water borne. It turned out the sewage line was perilously close to the line that pulled water from the Thames to drink. Once that was remedied, the breakouts subsided.
  • In Edinburgh, the Scots had an unusual way have handling sewage. It turns out, the city dwellers would throw sewage out of their homes around 10 pm, which is the reason people smoked after meals to mitigate the smell. This made foot traffic very perilous and less than sanitary.
  • In Chicago, when the city got so crowded and filthy, city leaders realized they needed to carry sewage away, but they could not figure out how to do it. An engineer had an idea that they should lift the buildings using railroad car heavy duty jacks and build the sewage and water lines beneath the buildings.This actually worked too well, as Lake Michigan began to get filthy and fish would be coming up through the water lines into bath tubs. So, they had to remedy where the sewage was dumped.
  • It is thought that the greatest Chinese achievement is the Great Wall. Yet, a more monumental achievement per Solomon was to build a canal between the two major rivers in the country – the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. This was a massive undertaking, but led to transportation and trade across the country.
  • Solomon also advocates the two greatest achievements in US History that made us a world power is the building of the Erie and Panama Canals. The former linked the east coast with trade of goods with the Midwest, making Chicago a very important port. The latter gave us access to two oceans and helped with global trade and naval might. He also credits the two Roosevelts as our greatest water presidents, with Teddy building the Panama Canal and buying watershed rights in the west. FDR built many dams to create hydro-power.

I mention this now, as Solomon has been a staunch advocate for addressing our water problems before it is too late. Flint-like problems exist in several cities right now. Yet, this goes beyond Flint, as our planet is drying up our water resources and it is noticeable by satellite pictures. It is also being made worse by climate change, which the Department of Defense says is one of the greatest threats to our planet. And, The World Economic Forum echoes these concerns with the global water crisis being the number one risk in their 2015 Global Risks report followed by climate change inaction. Solomon is adamantly against fracking as the amount of water wasted is huge per frack. He also notes that not only climate change will make the water crisis worse, but so will over-population.

Finally, the man who predicted the housing crisis two years before it happened, who is featured in the movie “The Big Short,” has only one investment right now. He is buying up water rights. Yet, outside of the Flint issue which is being spoken to by Clinton and Sanders, no candidate is addressing our water concerns and only one Republican candidate admits that climate change is a problem, John Kasich, with both Democrats being vocal about it. These might be questions we want to ask our candidates about, especially with Department of Defense and World Economic Forum noting their concerns.

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20 thoughts on “Water problems have been around for ages

  1. It is curious how the politicos simply ignore the major problems facing humankind. I suspect it is because they don’t want to alarm people; they want to make people feel good about them in order to garner their votes.

    • Hugh, that is a great question. To me, plain talk would sell. Just see the reaction to Bernie. People may not agree with his solutions, but he is speaking plainly about the problems.

      I also think that one of our political parties has spent far to much time supporting narratives not grounded in fact. At some point, the truth rears its head. Yet, to address it requires a mea culpa that you were wrong before. There is no better example than climate change, where far too many cling to a hoax mentality. Thanks for your comment, Keith

  2. Drinking water – actually, the lack thereof – is a global crisis. Many of the current wars are being fought in part because of water rights, and I fear that will be more true in the future. Unlike oil, there is no alternative to clean, drinkable water. Scary.

  3. Note it Readers: I noted in an earlier post that Duke Energy loses about 1% – 2% of water each day from its fossil fuel and nuclear plants through dissipated steam. This does not sound like a lot, but it takes a toll on drinking water that usually comes from the same rivers. It should be noted that Duke anticipates an additional 11% loss of evaporated water from its reservoirs due to climate change.

      • You went science on me. My educated guess is it is not a one for one trade off. Plus rain may occur elsewhere. I do know that in California, they are considering putting tens of thousands of floatable black balls in their reservoirs to minimize the evaporation. I will need to look into this more. Thanks for the question. Keith

      • According to the USGS 90% of water in the atmospheric water vapor comes from oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers. The last 10% comes from plant transpiration. Globally the amount of water evaporated is “about the same amount of water delivered to the Earth as precipitation.” Evaporation over the ocean is higher than precipitation, over land precipitation exceeds evaporation. 10% of the water evaporated from the ocean falls over land, while most goes back into the ocean. An evaporated water molecule spends 10 days in the air.

        Where that quote comes from: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/watercyclesummary.html

        The USGS site has a lot of information on water, its uses, etc. 🙂

      • Thanks Roseylinn. This is most helpful as per usual. I guess the main concern over the evaporation is the dedicated usage for drinking water is being diverted to precipitation that won’t replenish that specific source.

      • @Keith: Thanks for the compliment. 🙂 It’s not only that the specific source of the freshwater won’t be replenished; its how much is left in specific areas, and how much of it could be contaminated due to chemicals seeping through the ground and into the underground aquifers.

      • Roseylinn, you are so correct. Here in NC, we are contaminating our waterways with coal ash seepage and leaks. Thanks for your comments and links. Keith

  4. Note to Readers: A bipartisan bill to help Flint residences has been stalled in Congress by Rep. Mike Lee from a different state. With the EPA saying we have other communities at risk, the failure to not address Flint is a poor example of governance of the many. So, if a lead issue arises in Lee’s state, should federal help also be withheld?

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