What is Water? It Could Become The New CommodityCommodities are shelf-safe items that a consumer purchases, or that are provided by the federal government out of the nation’s surplus, for food pantries. In the United States, this has not commonly included water, however, as the nation has experienced one of the worst droughts in 50 years, the importance of water and conservation has once again gained a center stage appearance. This has caused cities and counties across the nation to work together with governmental agencies in an attempt to develop plans that will result in water conservation. This conservation will include not only drinking water, but water used in cooling systems and hydroelectric production. In addition, those responsible for equal distribution are drawing up plans for new improvements of the country’s water distribution system so that everyone has enough to meet their needs.

In fact, in one Oregon town, the city fathers have figured out a way to avoid installing traditional cooling equipment in their buildings by planting trees near their riverbanks. They believe that the shade-sheltered river passing through will allow them to cool their buildings while conserving millions of gallons of water and saving the city millions of dollars. In current economic times when cities across the US are struggling to balance their budgets, this innovative idea should be explored by other cities trying to save on big ticket budget items.

A similar concept is being employed in South Bend, Indiana, which is one of the first cities to employ cloud computing to lower the cost of cooling its power-generating plants. South American travel also has been booming among Americans. This approach is supported by the Department of Energy, which is working with state governments across the US on other computer projects to determine the best location for future power plants. Its search is for locations that will provide access to large amounts of water that can, in turn, be used to cool the plants.

What these examples show us is a growing concern for the future of water. Current weather patterns and this summer’s drought have brought to light that it is no longer a question of if water is going to become scarce, but when. The future is going to see a rise in the population that will continue to grow as babies are born and people live longer. Water will also be affected as climates change, making it necessary for us to learn ways to conserve this valuable resource. Whether you believe in global climate change or not is not the issue. What is the issue is how we can better control the wasted resources we now consume.

I recall a conversation I had with a very close friend of mine some 20 years ago. We were discussing the future of our planet, which he eloquently described as being “a ball of mud.” He made a statement that, at the time, went completely over my head. His voice of wisdom was that there will come a time when the water situation will become dire and make it as valuable as gold. His opinion was that man has not done enough to protect this valuable resource and has dismissed the assumption that there would come a time when water would not always be available to everyone.

Even though this was said decades ago, what he said is still true. In fact, the experts are predicting that in another decade we will need approximately 165 percent more water in the United States — a large portion going to cool down energy plants. Today, our country already requires 49% of water usage during peak summer months to cool our energy plants.

The expense will be increased in the future, not only by a shortage of water, but also by a shortage of utility workers who will be needed during the next decade. This shortage will be caused by the fact that the lure of working as a laborer has lost its shine as most of the younger generation may balk at doing such work.

With all of this being said and done, governmental agencies may have to change the rules about how water is shared and sold by farmers, since current regulations prohibit farmers from selling water rights in the same state. It may also mean that we need to modernize the way we treat water, not only as a precious resource but also as a commodity that can be sold and traded. Some critics of the proposal feel that large corporations could get involved in the trading of water and increase the cost tremendously. Others argue that allowing the government to control the trading and selling of water could result in a barely functioning system.

There is one thing that we can all see in our future, however, and that is the fact that water will play an even more important part of our lives. We will all need to reassess our perception of what water is and what water is not. In addition, we will all need to make changes in our daily lives to conserve this valuable resource.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Source: Scientific American