California: Desperation Rising as Water Runs Out

Gravity sensing satellites have measured the withdrawal of water from the aquifer underlying California's Central Valley. It's almost over. (NASA images)

Gravity sensing satellites have measured the withdrawal of water from the aquifer underlying California’s Central Valley. It’s almost over. (NASA images)

In more than 500 households in Tulare County, California, over a thousand people have been without running water for months. The reason you have not heard much about them is that they are poor working immigrants who labor in the Central Valley’s pastures of plenty to give us this day our daily lettuce and cilantro. They are homeowners whose homes are now worthless, dreamers of the American Dream who are now forced to buy bottled water to drink, to shower from coffee cans and flush with buckets filled at community tanks (with water from wells in imminent danger of going dry). Children are being kept home from school because they are too dirty. Proud cooks are feeding their families from cans. One resident told the New York Times (in a rare example of industrial media paying attention) “It’s a slow-moving disaster that nobody knows how to handle.” Continue reading

Fishin’ Gone. All Over the World.

When the last factory trawler such as this one returns empty from an empty sea, just go ahead and tun off the lights. (Photo by Dennis Jarvis/Flickr)

When the last factory trawler such as this one returns empty from an empty sea, just go ahead and tun off the lights. (Photo by Dennis Jarvis/Flickr)

The headline in the Washington Post on June 3: “The End of Fish.” Not even the usual weasel question mark at the end to avoid the declarative statement. In mid-June the Global Ocean Commission stated its conclusion that the world’s oceans are on the brink of collapse, offering a Pollyanna-ish eight-point plan for their complete recovery (Step One: Every country in the United Nations agrees to stop plundering the oceans for profit and start working for their recovery. Just give us a call when you’ve done that, and we’ll move on to Step Two.)  In late June, Quartz detailed the $27 billion in subsidies from the world’s richest countries to the largest, nost destructive fleets of deep-ocean trawlers, without which they could not sail. The headline on the July 11 cover story in Newsweek: “The Disaster We’ve Wrought on the World’s Oceans May Be Irrevocable.” Continue reading

Who Goes Dry First? Vegas or Phoenix?

Lake Meade, water source for Las Vegas and Phoenix, shows its "bathtub ring" marking where its water used to be. It is less than half full and dropping fast. (Wikimedia photo)

Lake Meade, water source for Las Vegas and Phoenix, shows its “bathtub ring” marking where its water used to be. It is less than half full and dropping fast. (Wikimedia photo)

The title of first American city to be abandoned for lack of water will be awarded in the next decade or so, and it’s hard to decide whether to bet on Las Vegas or Phoenix. It could be a tie. Those among us who still like our stories to end with a moral are rooting for Vegas, whose demise would round out a lovely wages-of-sin, Sodom-and-Gomorrah kind of fable. Phoenix seems less blameworthy, but only if you think what’s about to happen is retribution for sin. If you lean more toward the inevitable-consequences-of-stupidity theory, then there’s not much to differentiate between Dumb Phoenix and Dumber Las Vegas. Continue reading

Billions of Shellfish Die as Ocean Turns to Acid

Ocean acidification is taking a heavy toll on the world's shellfish, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Ocean acidification is taking a heavy toll on the world’s shellfish, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Climate change is not the only threat posed by the exploitation and pollution of the natural world, it is not even necessarily the one that’s going to bring the industrial world down. Many afflictions are competing for that distinction, and one of them — ocean acidification — has a good shot. The waters of the Pacific Northwest off Washington State and the Canadian province of British Columbia have become so acidic that the once-thriving shellfish industry there is on life support. Since nothing whatsoever is being done about the root cause of the problem — emissions of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels — it is not reasonable to expect a solution. Continue reading

Iran: A Nuclear Program, a Monkey in Space, No Water

Bridge Over Vanished Water: A dry riverbed in the Al-Ahwaz region of Iran, site of the country’s worst drinking water crisis, 90 per cent of Iran’s oil production, one third of the country’s water and the most polluted city on earth. (Ahwaz News Agency photo)

Bridge Over Vanished Water: A dry riverbed in the Al-Ahwaz region of Iran, site of the country’s worst drinking water crisis, 90 per cent of Iran’s oil production, one third of the country’s water and the most polluted city on earth. (Ahwaz News Agency photo)

Iran, the country that American sparrow hawks have pencilled in for our next invasion and 20-year war, is beginning to die of thirst. Its government is often fighting pitched battles with citizens desperate for water, and is preparing water-rationing plans for its biggest cities including Tehran. Its new president, Hassan Rouhani, has identified water as a national security issue and has promised his people to bring it back. Nice trick if he can do it.

Major rivers in Iran (think the Colorado River in just a few more years) have gone completely dry, as have large lakes such as Hamoun, near Afghanistan, and Urmia, once one of the world’s largest salt lakes (think California’s Salton Sea). Wasteful irrigation (they simply spray water into the hot, dry air), a profusion of dams trying to keep up with demand for electricity, and a burgeoning population sinking wells everywhere for drinking water, have all contributed to a dramatic depletion of available surface water. Continue reading

NY Times: Rising Seas “An Enormous Risk for the United States”

With distressing and increasing frequency, the streets of Norfolk, VA resemble the canals of Venice. The water is rising all along the US East Coast. (Photo by telmnstr/Flickr)

With distressing and increasing frequency, the streets of Norfolk, VA resemble the canals of Venice. The water is rising all along the US East Coast. (Photo by telmnstr/Flickr)

The New York Times seems to be suffering from multiple personality disorder. Last year, the number of stories it published that mentioned climate change or global warming dropped 40 per cent from 2012, this in the year the the paper closed its environment desk (nothing to see here), shut down its Green blog (nothing left to say here), reassigned its top environment reporters (nothing to do here), and gave a disproportionate amount of ink to climate-change deniers. Yet it remains capable of publishing, as it did this week, a hair-raising summary of the dangers this country is ignoring as climate change bears down upon it. “The Flood Next Time,” by Justin Gillis, is a clarion call to panic for anyone living near the Atlantic Ocean on America’s East Coast. Continue reading

Let Them Drink Oil

With thirsty oil rigs spearing the sky behind it, a water truck makes its run in Barnhart Texas,

With thirsty oil rigs spearing the sky behind it, a water truck makes its run in Barnhart Texas,

Barnhart, Texas, a crossroads village 250 miles southwest of Dallas, is living the dream. It was barely hanging on to a sleepy, sunbaked existence when fracking came to the area two years ago. As drill rigs sprouted like Jack’s beanstalks in every direction and oilfield workers swarmed in RV suburbs, the town boomed, and some property owners in the area landed rich leases. “Boom Times for a Tiny Texas Town,” exulted the Wall Street Journal. Last month, the entire town ran out of water. Bust.

Barnhart, Texas, is now living the nightmare. Continue reading

Winning the Race to the Bottom of the Well

After the well goes dry, there’s nothing much to do but talk about how much you miss the water.....(Photo by TREEAID/Flickr)

After the well goes dry, there’s nothing much to do but talk about how much you miss the water…..(Photo by TREEAID/Flickr)

When the New York Times, the US Geological Survey and the United Nations declare a crisis in the same week — the same crisis — it just might be that we have a problem. The one that the newspaper, the agency and the international organization were all worried about last week: the world is running out of water. It’s a situation that resembles the impending shortages of oil — as the supplies dwindle, the pumps run faster. Continue reading

Aquifer Pollution: Out of Our Sight, Out of Our Minds

Throughout human history, poisoning a well has been the foulest crime. Now it is approved by the EPA. (Photo by Kashif Mardari/Flickr)

Throughout human history, poisoning a well has been the foulest crime. Now it is approved by the EPA. (Photo by Kashif Mardari/Flickr)

One of the core ideas here at the Daily Impact is that industry, while pursuing profits (economies of scale), simultaneously concentrates risk. What industry has to do, then, is keep us focused on its quick payoffs (We’re job creators! We help the economy!) and distracted from the long term dangers posed by, for example, pollution. As our waters have increasingly been poisoned, our air relentlessly made more noxious, our very climate changed and our land made barren, getting the crap out of sight has become more and more difficult. But necessity is a mother, and it has borne  a new invention.

 

 

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Water Scarcer, Tensions Higher in the Heartland

As more and more of the breadbasket looks like this, tensions are rising and lawsuits are flying. (Photo by Terry Shuck/Flikr)

As more and more of the breadbasket looks like this, tensions are rising and lawsuits are flying. (Photo by Terry Shuck/Flikr)

According to government assessments released in the past week, both near- and long-term prospects are worsening for the drought-stricken Plains and Southwest states. As hope for relief fades, tensions are rising among towns, farms and states that are acting out the Tragedy of the Commons: as their water supply shrinks, they go after their neighbor’s.

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