Why I Don’t Care About Water

Actually, I do. I like drinking clean, clear water, even way out here in the desert southwest. I like taking a shower every morning, watering my garden and very occasionally, washing my car.

So then, why do I write this title?

There’s a hilarious trick happening, and we’re all falling for it. We all know the statistics and the facts. We know that a person will die in three days without water. We know that corn requires x water to grow, and that a steak needs so many gallons to go from a calf to my belly.

The trick is that we are told that we will “run out of” water.

I will start out by saying that it is a great trick; over 2/3 of the planet’s surface is covered with it, and any water molecules we consume end up back in the hydrologic cycle, meaning that 2/3 is still there.

How is it we risk “running out?”

We can’t drink or use just any water. Most of the water on the planet is salt water, and is not fit for drinking. Which leaves us with fresh water. Some of that is locked up in glacial ice, polluted, diseased, or trapped in the ground. A very small percentage is tied up as water vapor in the atmosphere.

This leaves only a small fraction left for drinking, irrigating, washing, and industrial uses.

One of the most important aquifers (groundwater sources) in the United States is the Ogallala Aquifer (sometimes called the High Plains Aquifer), which runs north to south, right along the very spine of our fertile, food-growing land. Farmers from Wyoming to Texas use this water to irrigate their lands.

The water is being pumped out much faster than it is being recharged through rain. Unfortunately, the majority of the precipitation in this region falls during the heaviest growing season, meaning much of it is absorbed by plants, rather than being used to recharge the aquifer.

The doomsday scenario sounds very realistic, and, under certain conditions, could be. Wars fought over water rights. Widespread famine due to drought-like conditions. Disease due to lack of sanitation. The very breadbasket of our country could be a desert!

Environmentalists would like you to stop there. The only solution, they say, is to put wise people in charge of regulating who can have what water, lest we all run out of water.

Knowing that I need water, or in three days, I will die, it is tempting to turn to the government for help. We are presented with two options: die or have the government regulate the water and save us.

It is a false alternative.

What would happen if the High Plains Aquifer dried up? What happens when an agricultural land is no longer fit for farming? PEOPLE ADAPT. Yes, that’s right. In a free society, when conditions are better somewhere else, they move away.

But what about the food? Well, it will need to come from another source. What is that source? I don’t know. However, as the Great Plains dries up as a food source, I bet some entrepreneuers will start thinking about it.

What about the water? We have countless ways (and can develop more ways) of cleaning up water. We can distill polluted water, desalinate salt water, melt ice, filter and UV treat questionable water and so on. It is more expensive than drinking it directly from the ground, but much safer. We can transport it by pipeline (we do this with oil, electricity, and natural gas anyway).

Water will be more expensive in the future. Food will be as well. However, there is a bigger expense in the regulation.

By allowing someone else to regulate your water supply, and what you can pump into your home, you are allowing them to control your life. Without their approval, you die in three days.

Ok, maybe I’ve gone to hyperbole. We’re just talking about some minor water restrictions, thought up by smart people who know about hydrology.

By allowing the government to determine if and when you are allowed to water your garden, you are submitting your food supply to their control.

Maybe you were talking about watering flowers or washing cars. Then it’s not a matter of survival. Then it’s ok to regulate water usage?

No. If there is water to purchase and I purchase it (buy it from a source or buy the well or storage apparatus, etc.), then it is my property. I am free to waste it if I so choose. I am free to break my phone if I get angry at it, free to crush my car, free to bulldoze my house, even if you view it as a waste.

I’m not advocating wasting water. I water my garden before sunrise, when the air is at its maximum humidity. I reuse some water through a gray water system for trees and plants. All of this is in an effort to drive my costs down. I do not own a well, so I must buy it from someone else.

I haven’t worked through all of water rights yet; if you build a well next to my well, and my well no longer works because of how much you withdraw, I am not sure of the best moral way to calculate the property rights here. I wrote this to dismiss the stupid idea that we are “running out of water.”

Thank you for reading my post.


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