When Catastrophe Creeps Up On You

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Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Some disasters move quickly, like the floods of Katrina, and the leaping wildfires in California. But I'll wager you haven't seen much coverage of the "epic" drought in Georgia. It may not play as "Breaking News" on CNN, but there's only about a three month water supply left in the greater Atlanta area. It's a slow-motion disaster, and it's really affecting the day-to-day lives of Georgians. Are you eating off paper plates? Not showering? How are you conserving, and what's next?

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Rationing and quotas are regarded as notoriously inefficient from an economic perspective. Why not let simply let people water as much as they want, but make them pay a higher price? The increased revenues would help the city improve infrastructure for long term growth, or could be used for short term solutions, like shipping or pumping in water from other areas.

Sent by Thomas | 2:42 PM | 10-29-2007

Water conservation should not be an issue that only comes to mind in times of shortage. We forget, as humans, that we are not the only living beings who need this precious resource. In the effort to manage water use, authorities should first take into account ALL stakeholders in the arena, not just the human need. I have a problem with people who feel they have a right to use what little water is sometimes available for purposes of vanity (clean cars, lush landscaping), while others must suffer with the shortage.

We're such a selfish species, and Americans are the worst of all. We feel we have a right to protection for all threats, availability of all possible choices and freedom to do whatever we want on "our" property. This arrogant perspective ignores the reality of the world: whatever freedom one has probably comes at the expense of another. It's natural to want everything, but immature to believe that shared, finite resources can be consumed with impunity, even when they are in abundance.

Sent by Elizabeth | 2:49 PM | 10-29-2007

Thank you for drawing attention to the topic of drought and water conservation. I deal with water in the landscape and notice a widespread misunderstanding on how water works in our living environment and the denial that our mistreatment of this natural resource is largely cause of problems such as drought and floods. But I also noticed eagerness and interest in water conservation practices. To help those individuals that are interested in changing their ways I started a pilot project on my property where I installed a variety of sustainable water treatment measures for demonstration purposes. This information is available under http://www.delafleur.com/168_Elm/
Thank you.

Sent by Marcus de la fleur | 3:05 PM | 10-29-2007

No one talked about water rights. IN the West; that is all we talk and fight about. Our local water district will not hear of conservation measures for the district as if they use less water; the right will be eventually taken away / or they will be able to use less water. This policy makes no sense in some ways since water is finite but in other ways it makes alot of sense.

We need a better policy of managing water but we also need to deal with water rights.

The guest was also right in that we are building where we shoulkdnt be building since the water avaiable is only so mcuh with the fastest growing cities being in areas that dont get water except through rain fall and being down stream.

Sent by jm fay | 3:33 PM | 10-29-2007

Is there anything new here? Have we not all been reading about the effects we humans have on the planet, by numerous environmental groups and reputable scientist, for the last thirty years? There is a solution to all that plague local, national, and international regions, and that is to embrace, educate, and encourage the lowering of the world population. Of course this is like the Social Security and national debt debacle, supporting such a position would be like grabing hold of the third rail and expecting to survive politically. Also most religious groups would go bonkers over such a sugestion.

Sent by Steve Reese | 3:36 PM | 10-29-2007

I think that the U.S. political process only responds to immediate crises. Part of it is that there are huge economic interests that protect the status quo. Even if politicians want to respond to "the will of the people", that can be pretty splintered.

I live in Raleigh, NC where we are having a similar, but not quite as impending, crisis. What am I doing specifically? I haven't watered my lawn but about 3 times ALL SUMMER. I put in a rock and gravel patio and walk-way to reduce the amount of grass that can be grown.

What is the long-term solution? Expand use of gray water.

Sent by eco guy | 6:30 PM | 10-29-2007

One necessary part of the solution is reduction in population growth. This reduces pressure on all natural resources. One simple step: have one biological child to keep the genepool varied then adopt the rest. Why is adoption always the last resort? This would help a child, free up government money, relieve pressure on charities, etc. You would spend the same amount of money because you'd have the same number of kids, just some are adopted

Sent by tony | 7:37 PM | 10-29-2007

This may be a politically incorrect subject, but the water shortage casts doubt on the wisdom of population explosion and mass immigration, both legal and illegal.

Sadly, the media almost never mentions the relationship between population density, the environment, and water shortages. Because our nation's land mass and resources are finite, a population explosion results in our having fewer resources and less wealth per capita, ceterus paribus, including less freshwater.

Commentators almost always laud efforts to restrict growth. However, conveniently and invariably, they never mention the sources of growth, which are mass immigration and population explosion. Almost invariably, commentators never explain where exactly they expect people to live. Is it possible that these smug commentators already possess their own palatial suburban homes and thus no longer need to worry about housing issues?

Our nation's population exploded during the decade of the 1990s. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, our population increased by 32.7 million people, and many scholars have projected that our nation's population will swell to between 450 and 500 million people by 2050. Currently, our nation has, by far, the world's third largest population, right behind the middle class 'bastions' of India and China.

When will Americans rediscover the works of Thomas Malthus, acknowledge the concept of a carrying capacity, and begin worrying about their own quality of life? When will Americans come to understand the relationship between mass immigration, population explosion, population density, the environment, pollution, real estate prices, traffic congestion, and quality of life? Our nation's water shortages are not merely the result of bad weather or bad luck. Rather, population explosion and the decrease in the amount of freshwater per capita have played a significant role in this crisis.

Sent by Frank the Underemployed Professional | 4:01 AM | 10-30-2007

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