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Your View: Water is the new oil, more valuable than gold

A water harvesting system lets people collect rainwater for their garden instead of having to use drinking water to irrigate plans. SPENCER SOPER / THE MORNING CALL
A water harvesting system lets people collect rainwater for their garden instead of having to use drinking water to irrigate plans. SPENCER SOPER / THE MORNING CALL
Bruce Wilson (contributed photo)
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World Water Day was Friday, an annual United Nations observant that reminds us we must protect and appreciate our water!

Last summer, while driving my oldest grandson to and from a karate class, he asked about water, so I did some research and found out that though , only 3% of that is fresh water, and — much of the rest of it is tied up in snow and ice or is in underground aquifers.

Many parts of the country that depend on water pumped from underground aquifers for agriculture . Imagine if Texas and California ran out of water? They are first and third in agricultural output in our country; California’s San Joaquin Valley is sinking a foot a year because of water being pumped out of the aquifer.

We have had some rainy and snowy years recently on the West Coast and the reservoirs used to provide water to millions of people are fuller than they have been in years, but most of those rains run off and do not recharge the aquifers.

Stormwater runoff basins could help store that surface runoff and recharge the groundwater, but many of those basins have impervious linings and count on evaporation to get rid of the water. New technologies allow the catchment basins — which are covered to stop evaporation — to recharge the groundwater.

One of the biggest problems with runoff water from roads and roofs is that the water is warm water. When warm water runs into streams and rivers, it reduces the amount of oxygen the water can hold, which can lead to fish kills because the fish don’t have enough oxygen to breathe. Water running off paved roads and lots also contains oils that drip from vehicle leaks, further threatening streams and rivers.

The cycle of fresh water as it flows in our rivers and oceans is being affected by — and affecting — climate change. As more and more ice melts, the salinity of surface water in the ocean is being reduced, threatening global currents. New research shows that one ,” according to nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization Inside Climate 첥Ƶ.

Superstorms, abrupt climate shifts and New York City frozen in ice. That’s how the blockbuster Hollywood movie “The Day After Tomorrow” depicted an abrupt shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation and the catastrophic consequences. Unfortunately, the science is unclear what the result would be if the ocean currents we are used to stop flowing.

These ocean currents alter our climate when they change. While changes in climate have caused more rain than usual in some places, many parts of the world are seeing more droughts. Mexico, Peru, Chile and Spain are seeing some of the worst droughts in recent history, according to the Guardian.

Water scarcity is causing problems in some of the world’s largest cities. In Mexico City, a combination of drought and a leaky water infrastructure has caused a crisis for the city, , according to CNN!

Droughts in the Panama Canal area are , causing major shipping disruptions. Two years of drought and high temperatures have caused severe water
shortages in Texas.

One study suggests that we need to increase our current crop production by at least 50% by 2050 to keep up with global food demand — which would . With water resources already strained it is hard to know where that water will come from!

One way to save water is to use grey water, water from nontoilet sources like hand, dish and clothes washing, to flush toilets and irrigate crops. Catching and storing rainwater is another way get get water without using water we can drink. I have a rainwater collection system to collect the water from my shed roof to use on my vegetable garden.

Years ago I was in Utah to visit a friend and was surprised to see an irrigation method that involved flooding an entire field. Newer drip irrigation methods use a fraction of the water. We are going to have to use more, better irrigation technologies to keep growing crops if we are going to survive!

Bruce Wilson lives in Upper Saucon Township and is a green builder and educator about green building, the climate and environment.

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