A couple weeks back I blogged
about a widely published report that held that the west was entering into a prolonged drying spell. The New York Times
detailed solutions being proposed & implimented that included desalination.
What was not mentioned was an idea that will be bandied about during
a meeting in Calgary. That meeting will be held next week in Calgary.
It addresses the idea of massive water transfers from Canada to the USA
& Mexico to address water shortages. You won't hear about it south
of the border however. The only place this is mentioned is in Calgary.
April 25, 2007 April 25, 2007
Next week, government officials and academics from the three countries will gather in Calgary for the two-day North American Future 2025 Project
(see page 6)where they'll brainstorm ideas on how the continent should
implement policies to deal with various challenges — including
security, energy and labour.
But it's the agenda on water that has
activists concerned, given that the discussions will be held behind
closed doors without public scrutiny, said Maude Barlow, national
chairwoman of the Council of Canadians.
"We want this out in the light of day. We
tried contacting them and they said this meeting is private," Barlow
said. "How could it be private if it is setting up the political and
policy framework for the future of North America?"
An outline of the proceedings states that climate change is expected to greatly exacerbate water shortages in the United States and Mexico while Canada, which has the world's largest supply of fresh water in the Great Lakes and elsewhere, is not expected to suffer to the same extent.
It goes on to state that "creative"
solutions — such as water transfers and artificial diversions of fresh
water — may be needed to address the "profound changes" that are bound
to occur south of the border.
Water transfers is something that's hotly debated in Canada
... but you don't hear much about it in the lower 48-though President
Bush has mentioned his support for the idea. Asked about the
possibility of water transfers world renowned water expert Peter Gleick
said the economics simply weren't there. Mr. Gleick says.
I actually think this enormous
controversy over bulk water exports is a little bit silly because no
one's going to be able to afford it," he says."And
frankly I think some of these people who complain because they have
been prohibited from doing it, I think we've saved them a lot of money.
I think they should have been allowed to do it and go bankrupt."
Santa Barbara looked into the idea several years back and decided on water desalination even at then current prices.
Never the less, according to a joint report entitled Global Water Futures
produced by the CSIS and the Sandia National Laboratories.
Finding 5: Solutions must be innovative, revolutionary, and self-sustaining. Current
trajectories for improvement in freshwater availability and quality are inadequate to meet global
needs in a timely way. Innovative solutions must be found and employed that replace steady,
incremental rates of progress with dramatic, revolutionary changes.
These solutions must be designed to be self-sustaining over the
Given the recognized urgency of the need for water solutions and the
fact that the meetings are behind closed doors, it looks like much of
the time & effort will be put into expediting Bush's desire for
water transfers-rather than doing any actual brain storming.
This is a shame. Especially as likely it will suck up what federal
institutional energy there is behind water desalination R&D. Its
especially shameful because the feds could get so much more bang for
their buck out desalination R&D.
So if you happen to know someone who knows someone who is attending
the meeting in Calgary next week...be sure to mention to them that basic
research suggests that the cost of water desalination & transport will collapse
in the next 5 to 10 years.
Here are three promising avenues of research mentioned in this blog from three different research labs.
1. Lawrence Livermore
3. University of Rochester
Here's a strategy
for turning municipal sewage into pure water and oil.
Here's a strategy
for cutting the cost of pumping water
To hasten the pace of research, I would greatly increase the amount
of money available to federal university & corporate labs for water
desalination research. As well, I would include DARPA in the effort to
fund start up companies. Further, I would suggest three ways to focus
The first would be to make available prize money like the X-Prize
that Newt Gingrich touts as a frugal way to get the most bang for the
research buck. I blog about this in a piece called harvesting research unknown unknowns
The second suggestion would be to attack known unkowns by employing
a much less publicized method of crowdsourcing scientific research
which I discuss in detail here
How does a research administrator best deploy his dollars between
projects competing for research dollars? Choosing rightly between known
knowns is difficult. In fast paced industries companies use something
called prediction markets. I discuss this strategy
Finally, make plain to those in attendance that the pace of
scientific innovation in the next 20 years will likely be more than the
last 100 years. They ain't seen nuthin yet.