The title might seem a bit odd in the midst of headlines about record rains and floods, and if you live somewhere like Oklahoma or Texas right now, you could be forgiven for thinking I’ve lost my marbles. But the fact is that while there’s plenty of actual water on the planet, climate change is drastically affecting the distribution. And what happens when countries (or states) have disparate amounts of a resource, especially a resource as important as water?
I am particularly sensitive to this issue because I live in California. This state is actually two states in one. The north has historically had the water, while the south has most of the people. For many years, water has been used for irrigation in the north and sent south via major projects like Shasta Dam, which also helped protect the north state from severe floods during the rainy season. The other big difference between the two ends of the state is that the north (by the way, when I speak of north, I’m talking about Sacramento to the northern border; the Bay area is NOT northern California!) is essentially rural and mountainous, with only one major town of about 100,000. Sacramento is the closest “city.” In addition to water from northern California, southern California gets water from sources like the Colorado River, which also supplies several other states, and from the southern end of the sierra Nevada. Los Angeles and San Diego are completely dependent on outside sources for water. Yet those areas, the Bay Area and the southern end of the central valley have the bulk of the population (and voters).
California is now more than four years into severe drought, and water issues are beginning to fracture the system. Conservation is mandatory, and those who waste water are supposed to be fined. People are spying on and reporting each other in the matter of water use. Some fools are trumpeting that as long as they have the money to pay for more water, they should be able to use as much as they want. I say “fools” because what they don’t get is that being rich does not make more water magically appear; it is a finite resource, and once you use it, it’s gone. Ask the Saudis, whose wealthy landowners have drained their aquifers dry in a matter of 30 years and must now import food for their population. In northern California and southern Oregon, the move to split the state and create a new state called Jefferson is becoming stronger. When I drive to town, I see an increasing number of signs, Jefferson State flags and similar signs of support for a new state.
picture credit: http://ijpr.org/state-jefferson#stream/0
Current resource wars are being waged primarily in the Middle East over oil (and if you think those wars have anything to do with human rights, dictatorships and democracy, think again). I fully expect that projects like the North American Water and Power Alliance are going to get hauled out and dusted off, along with massive expenditures for desalinization plants, to allow us to continue to consume as we have in the past and keep the status quo going. I also full expect that there will be wars camouflaged in rhetoric that are really about water, and that states will begin to fight over it (hopefully in the courtroom, but maybe outside, too) as well.