What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

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Saturday, 23 February 2008

Corn ethanol and Water in the US Part 3 - by Robb

Supply side solutions?
New major sources of groundwater are out of the question as many aquifers are in serious decline, the Oxnard-Mugu aquifer system in southern California, Denver basin bedrock aquifers, the Oglalla aquifer in the midwest, the Odessa aquifer in eastern Washington, the list goes on. But what about new dams and reservoirs?

To supply the water exhausted region of Odessa, the state of Washington proposed more diversion, dams, and reservoirs to store Columbia river water at a cost of up to $3 billion per site. The Columbia Institute for Water Policy concluded:

“Construction of reservoirs, canals, pump stations, pipelines and laterals would be exceptionally expensive – far beyond what is affordable to local farms or even within the range of reasonable subsidy by state or federal government.....Time ran out for the Odessa subarea long ago, when farmers chose to ignore the consequences of over-pumping and the use of improperly constructed wells.”

This lesson has been learned in Spain as pointed out by the WWF freshwater report “Rich countries, Poor water”

“Spain, consuming nearly 35 percent of it’s long term renewable resource is the third most water stressed nation of Europe”

This despite having more dams per capita than any other nation combined with large scale diversion projects to support subsidized agriculture. This supply side strategy has led to more water shortage rather than less. The Spanish National Hydrological Plan for dams, reservoirs and diversions put into place in 2001 sparked inter-regional conflict over water and the 23 billion euro project was scrapped in 2004 in favor of expanding the desalination capacity of the country.(WWF Freshwater report)

Expensive and energy intensive to operate, desalination plants are also labour intensive to run and maintain. The largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere opened in Tampa Bay and closed within 6 weeks of opening for a $29million upgrade. (Robert Glennon 2007)

Reuse of municipal effluent is a growing resource but does not offer nearly the amount of water necessary for such a large ethanol industry expansion and there are unknown health problems that make that supply questionable. It is typically used for urban irrigation.

There are currently no reliable supply side solutions to the water shortage facing the ethanol industry.

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