Drought – How To Avoid Becoming a Climate Refugee

Do you take your water supply for granted?

Water. It’s a necessity of life. And that’s important because it makes up the majority of the beer I drink. Without water life quickly becomes a living hell. Modern technology has made it possible to turn deserts into verdant fields of green while supporting life in subdivisions that stretch to the horizons. We’ve grown accustomed to green grass and water fountains in the desert.

One might be forgiven for thinking we’ve conquered the desert. Places formerly considered too harsh for even the manliest of men are now mere playgrounds for ancient overweight retirees cruising around in personalized golf carts whose only concern is the new phobia Pickles, their runt dog, has developed for the new addition on the figurine shelf. (To be fair, that expensive Murano clown figurine is really creepy.)

Is Water a Human Right?

As more people move to desert regions the strain of maintaining the flow of water increases substantially. In the American Southwest in particular, we’re seeing water transition from a plentiful commodity item to a limited quantity high-demand item. In my lifetime, it wouldn’t surprise me to see an new take on the old water wars of the Wild West days.

Will it get to this point. Who knows? But there are already rumblings about unfair water distribution in parts of Arizona, where neighboring communities are butting heads over the issue. In addition to the strain on resources due to an increased population is an equal increase in demand for water for agriculture needs.

A Resource Taken for Granted

Here in America, most of us take our water supply for granted. We turn on the faucet and water comes out. How that happens is a mystery to most of us. (unless you are one of the 15 percent of Americans that use a private well). It’s a miracle.

However, as we see in some locals, big ones like Detroit or small ones nestled in Mississippi, water isn’t guaranteed to be available or drinkable like it has been in years past. Budget shortfalls and old infrastructure are typically to blame. But a more recent issue is plain ole supply.

Unbeknownst to most, much takes place behind the scenes to keep places like Phoenix and Tucson inhabitable. Not the least of which is keeping the water flowing to an ever burgeoning crowd.

I travel to Tucson about once each year. On one trip, I struck up a conversation with some young men in a local brewery. At one point, I brought up the subject of Tucson’s water supply, seeing as the West’s water supply was a subject in the news and I was genuinely interested in the local’s opinion on the subject.

I asked if they were concerned about the potential decreased flow of water of water from the Colorado affecting their city. The mood suddenly changed. “Oh no!,” they all responded, rather peeved at the suggestion. “We get the vast majority of our water from right here in our aquifers,” they said. They sneered at the idea, and I got the feeling they saw me as some poor misled fool who watches the wrong news channel. Ah, the hubris.

True Source of the Southwest’s Water

They were right about the water coming from the local aquifer. However, that is not the source of their water. The reality is that the majority of Tucson’s water comes via the Colorado. It is pumped 326 miles via the Central Arizona Project and then dumped into large settling basins in Avra Valley, just outside Tucson. This water “recharges” the groundwater in the aquifer, which in turn is pumped out for use by the city. So yes, the men I talked to were right that most of their water comes from the aquifer under Tucson. But the source is the Colorado River via a complex infrastructure spanning hundreds of miles.

Currently Tucson’s water supply can handle the city’s needs. But with water levels reaching “dead pool” status in both Lake Mead and Lake Powell on the Colorado river, it’s a safe bet that Tucson’s water demand will eventually outstrip it’s supply. The future will have good water years and years of drought. But if the population continues to grow, no amount of rain or snow melt can sustain the demand. The Colorado river can carry only so much water.

And this is just one example of what is happening across the Southwest.

Learn how to avoid becoming a climate refugee because of wild fire.

Consider Future Water Access

The takeaway from this is pretty clear. We can’t survive without water. How does this affect you? If the local community you’re currently living in or considering moving to doesn’t control the source of the water you’ll need, consider other alternatives.

water is a finite resource. Make part of your daily preps
Enough for everyone? Hardly.

Other considerations include the massive infrastructure required to transport water to the masses in the desert. If more water is required more infrastructure must be built, maintained, and safeguarded. The more complicated a thing gets, the more chance for catastrophe or exploit by outside influences. Should the water in the Central Arizona Project be compromised, there are likely no alternative sources a resident can turn to.

If you live in this region, it’s worth looking into building up some reserve water supplies. No one can blame you for thinking of moving into this region. The climate is good and our technology has made the desert very attractive for millions and millions of people. But consider the risk and have a plan in place if the spigot goes dry. It is the desert, a very unforgivable place. Don’t get lazy and start thinking that because something hasn’t happened that it can’t.

Now is the time to consider what your life will be like as a climate refugee when you’re older or retired. Or maybe you’ll develop a taste for recycled urine. Pickles probably won’t mind, as long as you keep that damn clown out of sight.

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