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The drought went down to Georgia, it was lookin' for some crops to steal...
October 13, 2007 10:37 PM   Subscribe

Georgia's going dry -- and we're not talking liquor stores. Record temperatures in Georgia and a long drought have left many Georgia cities wondering when the taps will run dry. Some towns have only a few weeks of water left, while rivers near Athens have nearly dried up. A broken water main hasn't helped the problem, and some fear that the University of Georgia campus there may shut down for lack of water. What's more, Atlanta itself is already feeling the pressure, as Lake Lanier, a water source for 3 million residents, falls by 1.5 feet per week and has only a three month supply remaining. While there have been more severe (pdf) droughts in Georgia's history, rising population numbers have increased demand to now unsustainable levels.
posted by InnocentBystander (75 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
A friend of mine at the University of Georgia alerted me to this fact. Apparently, the reality of it hit home last week, when his soils science class attempted -- and failed -- to get soil samples, due to the ground being so hard and dry. Friends there are also reporting that some folks are scavenging the now dry riverbeds for anything of worth. Droughts aren't as visually amazing as hurricanes or tornadoes (and judging by media coverage of this so far, aren't as worthy of being covered nationally), but they can be as destructive as any natural disaster.
posted by InnocentBystander at 10:41 PM on October 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Welcome to Now.
posted by sourwookie at 10:53 PM on October 13, 2007


Says one who lives atop the Ogallala Aquifer.
posted by sourwookie at 10:56 PM on October 13, 2007


What's making matters worse, is that the Army Corps of Engineers is refusing to decrease the amount of water they are taking from Lanier. In fact, they want to increase the amount.

Ri-goddamn-diculous.
posted by BobFrapples at 11:02 PM on October 13, 2007


Please stop spreading these vile, fear-mongering, liberal rumors. There isn't a water crisis is Georgia. The water is safely tucked away with Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Remember, Global Warming is just a figment of Al Gore's imagination; and if it's not being reported on Fox News, it isn't any more real than other liberal conspiracy theories like 1.2 million dead Iraqi civilians, a stolen election in 2000, warrantless domestic wiretapping, trillions of dollars of new debt, and so on.

Of course, if it does turn out that all of these stories about drought in Georgia are true, then the cause is inescapable. No, not Global Warming; it's God's wrath and punishment for Georgia voting so staunchly Republican!
posted by Davenhill at 11:02 PM on October 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


I like how one of the links said they're now considering shutting down businesses that are non-essential but use lots-o-water, like car washes without recycling systems.

Reminds me a sketch I saw where the earth was in peril from an asteroid which could be destroyed but only by spending a butt-load of money. The earth was destroyed because it was a more palatable option than a tax increase.
posted by maxwelton at 11:07 PM on October 13, 2007


I like how one of the links said they're now considering shutting down businesses that are non-essential but use lots-o-water, like car washes without recycling systems.

Heh... you mean like the Coca Cola Snow Mountain?

Once word got out that thing was gonna blow millions of gallons of water out of it's asshole in snow form, pretty much everyone went apeshit trying to get it shut down.
posted by BobFrapples at 11:14 PM on October 13, 2007


Damn you Davenhill for beating me to the punch.
posted by SansPoint at 11:21 PM on October 13, 2007


We're going to see a lot more of this in the coming years.

It's called the Ogalala Aquifer. Midwestern agriculture depends on it. And it's running out. With a quickness.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:54 PM on October 13, 2007


Oh no, not Georgia!

/goes back to living contentedly in drought-stricken, decadent and wealthy California.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:16 AM on October 14, 2007


I lived in Atlanta for several years and it seemed like every summer a drought was in process and water restrictions were put in place.

I live in Phoenix now, where it hardly ever rains and the sun bakes 110 degrees plus most of the summer.

No one here ever talks about a drought or water shortages.

Go figure.
posted by Exchequer at 12:24 AM on October 14, 2007


I'm waiting for headlines on Digg about how Ron Paul will fix the drought.
posted by zek at 1:17 AM on October 14, 2007 [2 favorites]


Global warming?! HAH! I'll be able to play golf all year long! HA-HA! No water? ASTROTURF! Put it EVERYWHERE!
posted by stavrogin at 2:07 AM on October 14, 2007


Only Tony Joe or Brook can fix this.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:48 AM on October 14, 2007


Its not just Georgia (thanks, mr_crash_davis).

This has been building for years. I find it interesting that the first link is from Alabama, as Georgia, Florida, and Alabama have been involved in a dispute over how to share rivers that cross their borders since 1990 or so. A couple of articles from the turn of the century are here and here; a 2006 update is here, and some good collections of articles on the dispute and the drought in general are here and here. I wonder if the southeast will become the next dust bowl.

I live 120 miles from Atlanta on the other side of the state, and their thirst for water has affected the Savannah river as well; Lake CLarks Hill, right above my house, is nearly 12 feet below full pool level. Much of Georgia's difficulty dealing with the current drought stems from the fact that Atlanta grew up around rail lines rather than rivers, and so has no nearby source of water sufficient for a city of that size. Unfortunately the state is dominated by political knuckleheads who are more concerned about voter ID laws and gay marriage than where there water is coming from; the few environmentally friendly lawmakers we do have tend to be from Atlanta and so are not going to aggressively pursue policies that drastically limit that city's water use, which is what needs to happen.
posted by TedW at 4:10 AM on October 14, 2007 [4 favorites]


Mefites from out west are probably laughing at this but please remember we Easterners are used to having all the water we want, when we wanted, and never worrying about where the next drop was coming from.
posted by konolia at 5:09 AM on October 14, 2007


TedW: I wonder if the southeast will become the next dust bowl.

It's definitely not good, brother: NC Drought Timeline
posted by malaprohibita at 5:32 AM on October 14, 2007


After seeing this thread, I opened todays paper to find this in our local John Birch Society newsletter newspaper.
posted by TedW at 6:23 AM on October 14, 2007


It couldn't happen to a nicer (red) state. Good.
posted by spitbull at 6:24 AM on October 14, 2007


The overall trend is major sections of the US are drying up, as predicted, this is just the start. Rising oceans and hurricanes get a lot of attention but drought is the most serious.
posted by stbalbach at 6:43 AM on October 14, 2007


malaprohibita, cool link. The red blob seems to be creeping southwest to northeast. I wonder when it will hit my state of Maryland, we are currently in the yellowing phase.
posted by stbalbach at 6:46 AM on October 14, 2007


Heh, I live in Las Vegas an thought that us running out of water in 2016 would suck, thats better than three or four months.
posted by SirOmega at 7:23 AM on October 14, 2007


This is all well and alarming, but let's get to the really important stuff; how are the front lawns in Georgia doing? Still lush and green, I would hope?
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:23 AM on October 14, 2007


It's happening in Tennessee, too. As with rising gas prices, it'll affect most Americans sooner or later.
posted by kimota at 7:55 AM on October 14, 2007


I'll be able to play golf all year long!

You laugh, but here's the really funny part: In many cities, golf courses are right up there with vegetable gardens as waterable under severe restrictions.
posted by mediareport at 8:05 AM on October 14, 2007


> how are the front lawns in Georgia doing? Still lush and green, I would hope?

Athens GA here. Mine is, quite lush (no, I don't water.) In fact it's still wet and dewey at 11:00 AM. But I live in an old neighborhood with big trees and lots of shade. The new neighborhoods where they come in with a bulldozer and scrape off every sign of life down to the subsoil and then spec-build houses a foot apart--those lawns are browning off fast.

The rivers are quite low. Erratic and seasonal creeks are of course bone dry, but that happens every summer. Natural areas look normal, entirely green now with a sprinkling of fall color here and there, though the danger of fire is elevated. (I see signs of stress on some oak trees--dead branch tips here and there.) The fact is, though, that current conditions are going to impact human activities (water-intensive industries, too-big cities depending on too-small watersheds) much more than, and long before, they impact the natural world in an unrecoverable way. And even an "unrecoverable" impact would just be to set forest succession back by some amount from its present oak/pine climax forest toward the grass and grain stage. We're a long way from desertification here, and I expect quite a lot of industries, activities and people would croak before we got there, so the local problem is in an a large sense self-limiting. As for the people, right at the moment my feeling is that a sharp lesson is exactly what's called for. Bulldozers are still a much greater threat to the environment around here than drought is, and until that stops being true I'll happily brush my teeth with baking soda and put up with whatever else I must.

I am, however, going to spend the afternoon looking at roof rain-catchment design sites and cistern-building. Jeez, people used to have "rain bar'ls."
posted by jfuller at 8:44 AM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have recently shifted gears from blaming the world's problems on corporations and unfettered capitalism to blaming it on overpopulation. Sure, there are always going to be many causes for any problem (oil, emissions, warming, drought, etc.), but overpopulation seems to be an enormous problem running through all of it.

Would we have to worry so much about oil or water or emissions if there were fewer people and fewer vehicles? Of course not. The earth can only sustain so many people. Every country (in my opinion) has the responsibility to discourage its populace from having more than two or three children. Laws should be a last resort (China has already reached that point, of course). The Pope announcing that policy would be huge, and I can imagine a Pope doing that at some point. A US President would be a huge influence, too, but that will possibly never happen as it is asking people to sacrifice. And we all know that no politician will ask the American people to sacrifice.
posted by flarbuse at 8:45 AM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Global warming is just code for UN bureaucrats telling us what temperature it will be in our American outdoors. We'll show 'em. We'll grow oranges in Alaska!
posted by OldReliable at 9:09 AM on October 14, 2007


Nuclear power fueled desalination plants, stat!
posted by porpoise at 10:09 AM on October 14, 2007


flarbuse, not sure if you are talking about reducing population just for U.S. residents or worldwide, but if we reduce just ourselves, we'll still have to have massive immigration to prop up things like social security, which requires an ever-increasing number of young workers to pay for the elderly on benefits.

I don't see the Pope going for family-size limiting any time soon.
posted by marble at 10:12 AM on October 14, 2007


It's called the Ogalala Aquifer. Midwestern agriculture depends on it.

This is one of the reasons why corn based ethanol is a badly thought out plan. Not only does corn require lots of petroleum based nitrogen fertilizer, but lots of water.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:33 AM on October 14, 2007


Oh no, not Georgia!

/goes back to living contentedly in drought-stricken, decadent and wealthy California.


Oh not, not Georgia!

/goes back to living contentedly in drought-stricken Texas.

Not to be flip, but Georgia will get used to it. It takes a realignment of one's local thinking, and a war-ration style commitment to "doing one's part." Texas has a state-wide water conservation education effort called "Water IQ," which is surprisingly effective.

In many cities, golf courses are right up there with vegetable gardens as waterable under severe restrictions.

In North Texas, golf courses are indeed eligible for exemptions from even the strictest rations. But, they still get tried in the court of public opinion; it's common to see country clubs, large corporate campuses, and luxury shopping centers with emerald-green lawns... all with discreet curb signage indicating that they are purchasing their sprinkler water from reclaimed private sources.

Something else drought newbies will have to learn is that you can't return to the salad days once a nice rainy summer comes along and replenishes the lakes.

My hometown figured out how to make a nice mercenary profit off this, too -- we were forced to conserve at the highest levels, and then the city sold water surpluses at mad rates to neighboring towns who hadn't been as vigilant and were facing emergency shortage. Nice.

Water: It's the New Oil
posted by pineapple at 10:42 AM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


If water is the new oil we should be able to find some hapless (and defenseless) third world country sitting on oodles of nice clean aquifers. Then we can invade. (Just to bring them democracy of course)
posted by notreally at 10:56 AM on October 14, 2007


Are all these southwesterners justified in their smugness? I'd always assumed is was mostly the pumping of water into the desert that wasted the most.
posted by Reggie Digest at 11:28 AM on October 14, 2007


(it was)
posted by Reggie Digest at 11:29 AM on October 14, 2007


> It couldn't happen to a nicer (red) state. Good.

spitbull possibly overlooks the points that A. Georgia contains quite a large splotch of blue, often pointed out as the capital of black America (not to mention the capital of gay black America, with the annual Black LGBT Pride parade). Not precisely the Nascar daddies sb was thinking of, I'll bet; and B. it will just these Atlanta folks--population concentration highest, access to water sources lowest) who suffer the most when the water gets really short. I doubt sb really thinks "good" about hanging these particular folks out to dry and laughing about it; more likely it's just a case of disengaging brain before opening mouth. Assuming in all charity that there was a brain to disengage.
posted by jfuller at 11:49 AM on October 14, 2007


Are all these southwesterners justified in their smugness? I'd always assumed is was mostly the pumping of water into the desert that wasted the most.

This summer I ate at a hotel restaurant that used to be on the shore of Lake Mead (behind the Hoover Dam). The shore was about a quarter mile away now.

We were looking for RV parks and one of the places we called was a side business of a marina on the same lake, and it was closed because that part of the lake wasn't there anymore, or at least not deep enough for a marina.

There were, however, enough nice green lawns growing around the houses in the middle of the desert.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:58 AM on October 14, 2007


Yeah spitbull, way out of line.
posted by nola at 12:19 PM on October 14, 2007


Yeah, way out of line. Sorry. I have a thing about Georgia that has nothing to do with all the nice Georgians on MeFi.

So yeah, fuck me. But don't leave the water running.
posted by spitbull at 12:42 PM on October 14, 2007


You have a "thing" about 9 million people and 60 thousand square miles of land that leads you to condemn them all. That's pretty sad. It's not like we're France or something.
posted by kjs3 at 12:49 PM on October 14, 2007


> Sorry. I have a thing about Georgia that has nothing to do with all the nice Georgians on MeFi.

Flame withdrawn. Yeah, me and Willie Faulkner know all about that love-hate-relationship thingie.
posted by jfuller at 1:08 PM on October 14, 2007


"If water is the new oil we should be able to find some hapless (and defenseless) third world country sitting on oodles of nice clean aquifers. Then we can invade. (Just to bring them democracy of course)"

It's called Canada, and there is no need to invade. Our government will just hand it to you, and it won't even make the news.
posted by lenny70 at 1:09 PM on October 14, 2007


Acworth, GA, here. Lake Allatoona (one of Cobb County's water sources) is quickly drying up and heavy fines are being enforced for ANY outside watering.
Since a lot of places around here are the kind that tear down every damn tree before building, it's rather dismal looking around here.
posted by itchie at 2:07 PM on October 14, 2007


Are all these southwesterners justified in their smugness? I'd always assumed is was mostly the pumping of water into the desert that wasted the most.

If you're speaking to me as a Texan, then, yeah I am justified. In case you missed my earlier comment, I'll elaborate on my own role: my town has imposed elevated water restrictions not just during drought conditions but permanently.

We stayed at a "severe" restriction even after the June 2007 floods that brought Texas back up to pre-drought groundwater levels -- and which caused a "drought-free" declaration by the state for the first time in 10 years.

In other words, we don't have to continue to conserve, but we are anyway because it'll happen again. We woke up and smelled the drought, so to speak, and are making water conservation a permanent way of life as they do in NM and AZ, instead of a temporary measure. I've got zero problem being smug about that.

p.s. J.R. Ewing called and wants his stereotype back. Texas isn't all just desert and tumbleweeds.
posted by pineapple at 2:40 PM on October 14, 2007


flarbuse, re: the pope - Italy, Germany, and several other European nations already have declining populations. Strangely the US does not.
posted by zia at 3:06 PM on October 14, 2007


The Great Lakes aren't in very good condition, either.

What can happen to the Great Lakes? The Aral Sea (in central Asia) was listed as the fourth largest inland body of water in the world in 1960. It has now lost 75% of its surface area and 90% of its volume by man-made water diversions. Large lakes CAN be drained.

Well, the good news is that if the polar ice caps melt entirely, sea water will have low enough salt concentration to be potable.

Everyone (well, coasters) needs to have desalination plants powered by cheap and clean energy. Arguably, nuclear is the best we've got that closest fits the criteria. Con against desalination is what you do with all the salt. Pro for desalination is that you could do elemental recovery and pull out previous and otherwise useful metals and organic elements.

Hmm, I wonder if useful nucleids can be recovered from ocean water to partially power nuke plant?
posted by porpoise at 4:06 PM on October 14, 2007


Like itchie, I am also in Cobb County, Georgia. The whinging and complaining I've heard in my neighborhood about the watering restrictions is, quite frankly, disgusting. These people just have no clue that it really is possible to run out of water. I've seen the water police out in my neighborhood, and one jackass down the street from me just got hit with a written warning for running his sprinklers, but unfortunately he didn't get a fine - next time it'll be a hundred bucks, though.

While I think that the "no-watering" restrictions are all fine and good, I do have a couple of problems with the way it's being handled here in GA:

First, commercial carwashes are exempt. That is complete and total BS - there is no circumstance that I can think of where having a clean car in a drought is a necessity.

Second, people who have wells are also exempt. BIG BS there - groundwater is just as scarce as stream/lake water. There's a megachurch not too far down the road from me that has signs out saying "Well water in use", so as to justify their green grass.

Third, we're still allowing people to buy tankless water heaters that are advertised with the slogan "Shower for an hour". Way to go encouraging water conservation there. While tankless water heaters have a definite cool factor and are substantially more energy efficient than tank heaters, we need to discourage the use of appliances that are water-inefficient.

Fourth, not one bit of discussion has been had at our county government level about restricting new housing construction. Clearly, we've outgrown our water supply here in Georgia. At this point, we've got 2 options - stop building new houses (and thus encouraging more people to move here) or find more water. Unfortunately, the Cobb County Commission is far to beholden to the McMansion industry to consider something like that.

Personally, I'm really hoping we go bone dry. Seriously. Unfortunately, the amount of bitching about watering restrictions that I hear here has me convinced that people here are too stupid and self-centered to allow meaningful changes in our water consumption habits until there's a catastrophe. If people spend even a week having their houses smell like shit because there's no water to flush their toilets, and the stores start charging $10/gal for bottled water trucked in from elsewhere (the free market at work, natch), that will force people to stop and think about overgrowth here. As far as I can tell, nothing else will do it.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:02 PM on October 14, 2007 [4 favorites]


flarbuse, not sure if you are talking about reducing population just for U.S. residents or worldwide, but if we reduce just ourselves, we'll still have to have massive immigration to prop up things like social security, which requires an ever-increasing number of young workers to pay for the elderly on benefits.

I think the lesson there is, we need to fix/eliminate programs that are premised on continual population growth, since they're quite obviously unsustainable.

We need to stop growing, period, whether that's via immigration or via domestic population expansion. You can't just increase forever. If programs like Social Security require >1 young worker for each old worker, than those programs are broken, full stop.

And on a regional/micro level, communities need to get the message that unbridled growth isn't without cost. Atlanta wants more and more water so it can continue to grow, but other areas need/want water, too. I see no reason why Atlanta should be allowed to grow out of control at others' expense; at some point, people in Atlanta need to realize that the supply is tapped out and stop trying to pack more people in.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:16 PM on October 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Floods in Louisiana, drought in Georgia, fires in California - when what we really need is a small asteroid strike in Crawford, TX.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:19 PM on October 14, 2007


...desalination plants powered by cheap and clean energy. Arguably, nuclear is the best we've got that closest fits the criteria.

Actually, no. The biggest argument if favour of nukes is that they are baseload power sources, whose output doesn't depend on local environmental vagaries. But the energy used in a desal plant is used by pumps, and the pumps move water, and water is easily stored. There is absolutely no reason why a desal plant needs to be run at constant power input. A variable supply can work equally well.

The major expense in building a desal plant is the filtration membranes, and this is likely to remain true even in the face of technology improvements. You'd obviously want to keep water flowing through them at close to 100% of full capacity to minimize their per-output-litre cost. But there is no reason why membrane pressurization has to come directly from a pump. If the plant is designed with a suitable header reservoir for feedwater, and the pumps lift seawater into that reservoir instead of pushing it directly into the membranes, then the plant can be designed with 4x oversize pumps that run 25% of the time - an excellent fit for wind or solar power.

Or, it can be designed with 10x oversize pumps that run 10% of the time, and used for general demand-side power levelling: instead of manipulating supply-side spinning reserve to even out the variations generally associated with renewable power, desal plants could be turned on when power was plentiful and turned off when it wasn't.
posted by flabdablet at 8:25 PM on October 14, 2007


We need to stop growing, period, whether that's via immigration or via domestic population expansion. You can't just increase forever.

That's what Malthus said, but I heard he's been debunked. Anyway, more humans = more human ingenuity, amirite?
posted by flabdablet at 8:31 PM on October 14, 2007


Here's a lovely map that shows drought levels nation wide:

http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html
posted by esome at 8:54 PM on October 14, 2007


flabdablet -

Interesting, that's the first I'd heard it framed that way - I assumed (and heard) power was the major expense.

Another interesting power source for desalinization is wave power, given that desalinization plants are likely to be in close proximity to the ocean.
posted by chundo at 9:49 PM on October 14, 2007


Dead Messenger--

I agree with you on the last two points, but I do wonder about the car wash thing. When we hit our drought here in Central Virginia four years back (and now we're in another one; we too need to go on permanent water restrictions here), Charlottesville city council threatened to shut down the car washes first.

They may have actually done it, I don't remember. Because within a week, every car wash company in town and in the surrounding county had installed water recycling units that brought down the amount of water used by something like 90%. So now compared with, oh, say, coffeeshops, their water usage profile ain't so bad.

Just something to consider. Check to see if your local car wash has recyclers, and if they don't, it might be time to start pushing for them to have them.
posted by thecaddy at 10:17 PM on October 14, 2007


The drought map that esome links to describes my neck of the woods (near the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, which has its own set of unbelievable problems) as being in a state of "moderate drought," which is unsurprising given that the set of teensy rainstorms we're supposed to get this week will be the first real water that's fallen from the sky in well over nine months. But of course when you turn on the local news it's all "Oh, we kinda need some rain since we're a teensy bit below average for this time of year, but let's whine about how inconvenient it is to have a slightly wet commute."
posted by blucevalo at 11:46 PM on October 14, 2007


The best thing about the drought here in Athens, GA so far has been seeing the respectable local newspaper print, repeatedly, the phrase "If it's yellow let it mellow; when it's brown flush it down".
posted by ewagoner at 6:42 AM on October 15, 2007


First, commercial carwashes are exempt. That is complete and total BS - there is no circumstance that I can think of where having a clean car in a drought is a necessity.

I'm also of mixed mind regarding commercial car washes. "The reality is that most commercial car washes use 60% less water in the entire washing process than a simple home wash uses just to rinse off a car. Special pressure nozzles mix 50% air in with the water to create pressure without volume." And that's before re-use and recycling units.

The problem is that Americans have always received the message that a sparkly clean car is a reflection of your value as a person; dirty schlubby cars belong to dirty schlubby people, amirite? And the whole driveway washing, complete with bucket of soap and playful spraying of family members, is practically a fixture of auto commercials. It's like apple pie and baseball up in here.

So if it's fair to say that 1) Americans need a recalibration of their thinking on all car washing, vis-a-vis water conservation, and 2) that commercial washes use less water than home washing,

then it seems to me that, therefore, it would be putting the cart before the horse to do financial harm to small businesses before even embarking on an awareness campaign to get people to lose their auto vanity. Because, if you penalize or decry commercial car washes first with no other message or education, people are just going to wash their cars at home... and as we know, they'll waste even more water that way, and also do real harm environmentally with storm drain run-off.

And I think people are inherently lazy and they also like to keep up with the Joneses. They wash their cars because it's What One Does.

But if the whole neighborhood was also on board the "We Took the 'Dirty Car Pledge' for Water Conservation!" train -- complete with the logo of a cute anthropomorphized cartoon pail holding white-gloved hands with a cute anthropomorphized cartoon water drop, on a decal one could apply to one's back windshield (so that everyone can smugly demonstrate to their neighbors that they aren't just [cheap / poor / ignorant], they are Doing Good), along with the "Dirtiest Car Contest" with the mayor judging and the photo in the community paper... well, you'd then be saving water but also having your social needs met.

It's hard to ask people to make a responsible lifestyle change without offering the social reward (see also: the cloth shopping tote). More importantly, though, I'm not sure it's ethical to penalize community businesses without considering the ramifications and a broader scope of alternatives.
posted by pineapple at 6:51 AM on October 15, 2007


I assumed (and heard) power was the major expense.

Power is indeed the major running cost, but the membranes are the major capital and maintenance cost.

Designing your desal plant with gravity-fed stored feedwater raises the capital cost compared to not doing that, because you need to build the reservoir and the oversize pumps will cost more. However, because you can then run the thing exclusively on cheap off-peak power, you pay that back fairly briskly in lowered running costs.

In Flabdablet's Ideal Demand-Side Managed Electricity World there is no spinning reserve, the price of electricity is continuously and automatically varied according to how close total instantaneous demand is to total instantaneous supply capacity, heavy industry in general uses system designs that make it OK to drop off the grid for a while when the price of power rises above a set-point, and we all link arms and march happily into a totally renewable-powered future.

I do understand that not everybody thinks this is the right thing to aim for, but I don't really understand why not.
posted by flabdablet at 7:04 AM on October 15, 2007


People in the know have been saying for years that the world's biggest problem was going to be water, not oil.
posted by zzazazz at 11:24 AM on October 15, 2007


Water and oil are both problems of the highest order. We can buy a good chunk of time through really easy and basic "low-hanging fruit" conservation efforts, but ultimately the planet really is overpopulated.
posted by MillMan at 11:53 AM on October 15, 2007


Speaking mostly to my fellow Californians:

Navy showers for everyone, people. It ain't hard to do. Hardware stores have showerheads with on/off valves, they work great.

And don't run the water the whole time you brush your teeth and shave, either.

And fergossake, get rid of your store-bought genetically-engineered chemically-supported "green grass lawn," and go with native desert plants and rock landscaping. You'll save a bundle, and not just on your water bill.

Because we're next on the water restrictions list. They're already starting to run TV ads to raise awareness about it.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:51 PM on October 15, 2007


along with the "Dirtiest Car Contest" with the mayor judging and the photo in the community paper... well, you'd then be saving water but also having your social needs met.


But the mayor is drinking buddies with the owner of the car wash...
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:40 PM on October 15, 2007


Australia has had toilets with half and full flush options (for one and two) for decades. It's almost criminal they haven't been adopted by the US, particularly since the SW has had water restriction for decades as well.
posted by 6550 at 11:52 PM on October 15, 2007


Give it 10-20 years and the wars will turn from oil to water and we are all going to owe Kevin Costner an apology for ignoring his warning.

I remember I visiting a friend in the early nineties who just moved to Atlanta and remarked how hot it was and asked her how she dealt with it. She said "central air conditioning". I thought to myself then: "this isn't good". Since then the population of formerly unliveable areas of the south has exploded. There are some places on earth that are meant to be sparsely populated and the south is one of them. But our consumer-centric society has made it pretty easy to avoid the ravages of mother nature. Wake up in air-conditioned house, get into air conditioned car, go to work in air conditioned business, eat, shop and recreate at air conditioned mall - never leave your climate controlled bubble. You can only give mother nature the finger for so long...
posted by any major dude at 6:53 AM on October 16, 2007


I remember I visiting a friend in the early nineties who just moved to Atlanta and remarked how hot it was and asked her how she dealt with it. She said "central air conditioning". I thought to myself then: "this isn't good". Since then the population of formerly unliveable areas of the south has exploded. There are some places on earth that are meant to be sparsely populated and the south is one of them. But our consumer-centric society has made it pretty easy to avoid the ravages of mother nature. Wake up in air-conditioned house, get into air conditioned car, go to work in air conditioned business, eat, shop and recreate at air conditioned mall - never leave your climate controlled bubble. You can only give mother nature the finger for so long...

This is a pretty ridiculous argument, to my read. Can you clarify or expound?
posted by pineapple at 7:51 AM on October 16, 2007


pineapple,

People who weren't used to the oppressive heat of the south decided to move down there en masse in the past 20 years because of the advent of central air thereby overpopulating a region of the country based on an unnatural contingency. I don't believe there's much of a precedence in human history outside of the building of canals and dams.
posted by any major dude at 8:25 AM on October 16, 2007


People who weren't used to the oppressive heat of the south decided to move down there en masse in the past 20 years because of the advent of central air

Any cite for this? Or is it sort of a "gut instinct, common sense" thing?

I don't believe there's much of a precedence in human history outside of the building of canals and dams.

Much of a precedent for what? Civil engineering?
posted by pineapple at 9:12 AM on October 16, 2007


Any cite for this? Or is it sort of a "gut instinct, common sense" thing?

Ummm, maybe I've heard about it more because I live in the Northeast but the migration from North to South has been pretty intense over the past two decades. Here's a press release from the first link on a google search.


Much of a precedent for what? Civil engineering?

Precendence for a population buildup in landlocked arid areas, sorry I'm busy at work, I should have been more clear.
posted by any major dude at 9:20 AM on October 16, 2007


I'm not as interested in a cite that people are moving to the South (which could have loads of explanations, including cost of living, availability of employment, average real estate prices, and so on), as much as I am a cite that people are moving to the South now, because of air conditioning.
posted by pineapple at 9:29 AM on October 16, 2007


If you are asking for a poll that people move down south because the streets were rumored to be paved with air conditioners you are out of luck. The combination of the US moving from an industrial to an information society plus the ubiquity of central air is the reason why the South has become a mecca for those looking to escape the high cost of living up North. Ask anyone who lives in the south - especially transplants - and they will tell you that they would not live their without central air. They couldn't - so that's where MY theory comes from.
posted by any major dude at 9:39 AM on October 16, 2007


So in other words, confirming what I asked upthread, this air conditioning thing is your own anecdotal theory based on your friend's experience, and not documented or known to be any sort of quanitifiable fact.

I do think it's an interesting theory... but in a discussion about drought and climate change, I think it's more responsible to appropriately frame statements of personal theory like "People who weren't used to the oppressive heat of the south decided to move down there en masse in the past 20 years because of the advent of central air thereby overpopulating a region of the country based on an unnatural contingency" and "the south is meant to be sparsely populated" and "The combination of the US moving from an industrial to an information society plus the ubiquity of central air is the reason why the South has become a mecca for those looking to escape the high cost of living up North"... with some sort of precursor like "I think that..." or followup like "...in my opinion." Otherwise someone might come along and interpret your strong statements as known facts, and then repeat them.

Also, just because people who live in the South prefer to enjoy air conditioning rather than not, doesn't make it the reason that they moved there. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
posted by pineapple at 10:18 AM on October 16, 2007


Many of us who grew up in the south grew up without central air-or no air conditioning at all. As a young adult I lived in Pensacola, Florida with no airconditioning at all and managed just fine-I took a lot of showers but I survived.
posted by konolia at 10:51 AM on October 16, 2007


I'm too tired to look it up, pineapple, but once upon a time, when I was in school, we were taught the Sun Belt migration (based on AC and lack of unions) as established fact with citations and whatnot. So what any major dude is talking about is or was a somewhat substantiated theory.
posted by dame at 7:56 PM on October 16, 2007


I have heard it stated numerous times that the advent of air conditioning made the economic growth of the South possible; here is a BBC article alluding to that theory.
posted by TedW at 5:13 AM on October 17, 2007


I took a lot of showers but I survived.

This is all your fault!
posted by Reggie Digest at 8:44 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


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