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Cafe Society to discuss the growing issue of water management

By Staff | Jun 3, 2016

The next session of the Cafe Society on June 7 will discuss growing concerns that our nation faces

major and protracted water shortages in the years ahead. There are a number of factors that promise it will be a “perfect storm” and a very dry one. Dire implications are hard to ignore but the political leadership at all levels continues to do so.

These informal weekly discussions are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning, usually in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University Student Center. However this next session and the two that follow in June will be held in Room 256 of the Scarborough Library.

Cafe facilitator Mike Austin commented, “No matter what your profession (industrialist, business man, farmer, transportation official, public service utilities manager or just an average citizen) there is barely enough water to go around now and the situation can only get worse. Even if available, it may no longer be affordable and of course any incremental costs will be passed along to the ultimate consumer.

“here are finite amounts of water and the demands continue to grow, exacerbated by government programs and policies that have concentrated very large populations in regions where water is extremely scarce. While hard to quantify in meaningful terms for the average citizen (acre feet are difficult to comprehend), it isn’t just a supply and demand equation. A significant portion of the water that we do have is contaminated by agriculture, mining and industrial operations.

“Key commercial water users have difficulty adjusting the magnitude and tempo of their operations to fit the available water and waste water storage, processing, distribution and final disposal systems. To make matters even worse, there is no longer such a thing as “patient capital” willing to make the necessary long term investments to create and maintain adequate capacity. And finally, our nation’s legal system has not kept pace with developments. There are senior and junior water rights and complex rules and regulations at all political levels that are very complex to understand, frequently involve expensive legal interpretation, and move through implementations stages at an exceedingly slow pace.”

He went on to say, “Resolution of water issues is particularly contentious because in

most cases heavy users are well entrenched and gain support from significant portions of the economy that have a vested interest in the

“ir retaining water rights. A good example is the stream flow in our Western rivers where hydro electric public and private companies, commercial and sport fisheries, farmers, and home owners all vie for their “essential” share. And there are serious international considerations with Canada, Mexico, and treaty rights of our own Native American populations that cannot be ignored.

“Time is working against us we continue to concentrate people in the wrong places, pollute and maintain a casual approach in using increasingly indiscriminate amounts of chemicals in consumer products as well as industrial and agricultural operations. And finally precious and irreplaceable ground water is being used up at an alarming rate. It will be a hard sell, but we badly need to start taking long term corrective actions on the order of the Manhattan Project and the Tennessee Valley Authority.”