Diverting floodwaters (not funny)

Until this week, my knowledge of water treatment systems was limited to Ms. Frizzle's explanations in The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks.  Becoming more water savvy has become a theme for my year, a belated resolution provoked by a coworker's offer to order an EcoSpout for me.  Although I went in on her order, and now own the EcoSpout and AdaptAJug, they haven't changed my life, and are now gathering dust on a shelf.  What intrigued me was my coworker explaining that she captures the gallon of water from the bathtub faucet that runs while the water gets hot enough for a shower.  Why didn't I think of that?  Ooh!  I just hate being out-greened!

While my friend uses that water for her plants, I've started using my captured water in the toilet tank.  I quickly realized that it takes a lot of water to flush.  And I requested Charles Fishman's recent book, The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water from my library.  This is enjoyable reading for folks who enjoy man-made calamities, natural disasters, environmental issues, and clear nonfiction writing.  

A few years back Rose George's bookThe Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, convinced me that the United States needs to rethink foreign aid on a very basic level.  Big Thirst reminds me that our country needs bold, visionary, convincing leaders who can rise above bought-and-paid-for politics as usual to provide for population growth and climate change.

Tonight the media news focus is on Minot, North Dakota becoming submerged under floodwaters released by the Army Corps of Engineers from an upstream dam.  This water management system seems extremely wasteful and destructive.  Is it any less devastating than periodic natural disasters?  How could it be more effective and beneficial without destroying habitat?  I'm just musing, as there are many more chapters in the book for this slow reader.  Still, I am taken by this section about Patricia Mulroy, the woman who directs the Las Vegas Valley Water District:

Mulroy told President Obama he should consider a major public works water project, on the scale of Hoover Dam itself.  She thinks the federal government should create a system of canals to capture, then divert Mississippi River floodwaters straight to the Midwest.  When the Mississippi River floods, whole communities are devastated; the water they are devastated by is largely wasted.  Mulroy isn't talking about diverting the Mississippi itself--she know something about the politics of river water--just the floodwaters.

The result, in theory, could save the Mississippi River basin from periodic natural disasters, it could allow states east of the Rocky Mountains to access a new source of water, it could even all the United States to replenish the desperately falling Ogallala Aquifer in the high plains.  "One man's flood control is another man's water supply," says Mulroy.  "you could capture 9 million to 14 million acre-feet of water a year."  That's more than all the water Arizona, California, and Las Vegas take from the Colorado River.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

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