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Monday, August 11

Ah ha! Aliens from outer space, cleverly disguised as megacity infrastructures, are stealing all our water!

Yes, I have discovered we are under attack by a race of Rube Goldberg contraptions. No applause, please; my humility is boundless.  I even plan to donate the Nobel prize money to establish a new branch of scientific inquiry called common sense. But this really does explain everything; even why so many people started getting the idea that they'd been kidnapped by aliens.  In a way, they had, if they lived or worked in a city on its way to becoming a megalopolis.

Humans use at most a gallon of water a day, and even a cow can only manage 25 gallons. But the infrastructures for maintaining a constantly expanding megacity slurp up so much water they're threatening to drain dry every river, lake, and aquifer. 

Obviously this is a plot thought up by sentient water pipes to conquer the human race.

They hypnotize mayors and tell them: Repeat after me, "The more people and business I can attract to my city, the more tax revenue city hall takes in."

By the time the mayors figure out what's going on, it's too late. All they can do is try to sell yet more bonds and attract yet more business and residents in a losing battle to keep up with the cost of maintaining humongous ever-expanding infrastructures and the ever-expanding search for enough water to maintain those infrastructures.

In case you think I'm making any of this up, consider the following factoid:

"Large cities occupy only 1 percent of the Earth’s land surface, but the watersheds that provide their water cover 41 percent of the land surface."

It's not the people in those cities who're drinking up all that water, it's the giant cities they live and work in, the infrastructures, that have an insatiable thirst.  The bigger the cities get, the more water they use out of all proportion to the people who live and work there -- just to maintain their giant infrastructures!
 
So while agriculture takes about 70 percent of the water humans use at least it's vital: it feeds us and our livestock.  But what genuis thought up the idea of pouring water down the throats of contraptions and facilities whose entire reason for existence is to maintain their own gigantic and ever-expanding size?

Think it through: only an alien race that doesn't like humans very much could have come up with that one.

And then we complain about the costs to cities of public unions and welfare; heck, those are a drop in the bucket next to what it costs to maintain the state of always getting bigger.  At least welfare payments and union salaries support people. The megacity infrastructures support one thing: big.

And the amount of water that governments in the megacities lavish on staying big is mind-boggling.  The factoid I quoted is from Sandra Postel's June 6 summary for National Geographic of new research that provides the most detailed study to date of urban water use.  To get you in the ballpark fast the summary is titled, World’s Large Cities Move Water Equivalent to Ten Colorado Rivers to Meet their Annual Water Needs.

Do you know how many miles the Colorado River stretches?  How vital it is?  It's not called the American Nile for nothing.  And yet one megalopolis, Denver, is scheming and plotting to divert even more Colorado water than it already does in order to support its urban sprawl -- and Denver isn't the only megacity intent on grabbing lots more water from the Colorado by means that are bound to wreak havoc downriver.
  
But if officials in those cities were called out, they'd say cows and rice also use up large amounts of the river water. Yeah, well, those officials should try chowing down on a 30-inch water pipe for dinner.

And while this doesn't only relate to water: if you want to see what's perched on the banks of the Hudson River, lift up the City of New York and it's green "Central Park" and look underneath. That's a desert. Then lift up Washington, D.C. and its green "Rock Creek Park" to see what's on the banks of the Potomac River. Desert. 

These giant cities are one big desert-making machine. And they generate so much hot air, and trap so much hot air, I'd like to see the average global temperature recalculated without that heat source included. Then tell us what human-made source is contributing the most to global warming.

During a heat wave recently in Washington, which put the temperature near 100 degrees, I went about 15 city blocks down from a shopping/ business district to a residential one that had large trees lining the sidewalk and large shrubs fronting old apartment buildings.  I didn't have a thermometer with me but I'd estimate the temperature was at least 5 degrees cooler in the residential block, even with the sun beating down. When I remarked on this to a passerby, he agreed that it did feel cooler.

The kicker is that when the cities can't expand outward, they expand upward. There's at least residential skyscraper in New York that's about as tall as the new World Trade Center tower.  But many of the condos in the residential skyscrapers aren't even occupied. They're bought up, mostly by foreigners, as a safe house or speculative investment -- I guess on the theory that if they paid $2 million for a coffin in the sky, some other fool is bound to come along and pay $5 million for it.

Yet those towers have to be maintained, whether they're occupied or not, and that takes lots of water and electricity. And lots of heat being generated.  

And here in Washington, builders who can't buy up any more land in the city are putting up apartment buildings on top of older apartment buildings. No joke. Soon the nation's capital can lay claim to another dubious distinction: the craziest skyline. 

But when you consider how many people and how much business have fled a city the size of Detroit and think of all the infrastructure that goes into maintaining a ghost megacity, the scope of the craziness comes into sharp focus. Vast amounts of water are being transported though a huge infrastructure to pour onto ghosts.
  
The situation is out of control, so it's a skewed priority to talk about chopping down the size of federal government. First chop down the size of monster cities.  Even 20 years ago that might not have been feasible, but the technologies now exist to decentralize massed human populations and return cities to human size.  If we don't do this, the giant cities are going to destroy us -- and our water sources.

Before I quote more passages from Postel's summary, one possible caveat about the new study she discusses: The study's finding that 25 percent of cities are water-stressed might be challenged by ones that put the figure at 39 percent.  It could be that those earlier studies used different criteria for determining stress. However, even the lower percentage is alarming, given the size of the cities in question.
World’s Large Cities Move Water Equivalent to Ten Colorado Rivers to Meet their Annual Water Needs
by Sandra Postel
National Geographic
June 6, 2014

The California Aqueduct transports water 700 kilometers from northern California to southern California, including Los Angeles, which ranks first in the world in cross-basin water imports, according to a new study.

As cities grow in population and economic activity, they reach further and further out to find water to meet their needs.

Now, a new study has estimated that collectively the world’s large cities, defined as those with at least 750,000 people, move 504 billion liters (133 billion gallons) of water a day a cumulative distance of some 27,000 kilometers.

Positioned end to end, the canals and pipelines transporting that water would stretch halfway around the world.  The volume transferred annually is equivalent to the yearly flow of 10 Colorado Rivers.

Many large cities tap supplies not only in their own watersheds, but also in others far afield.

Los Angeles, California, with imports of 8.9 billion liters per day from distant rivers, ranks first in the world in cross-basin water transfers, according to the study, published this week in the journal Global Environmental Change.  The city diverts water hundreds of kilometers from the Colorado River Basin, as well as from rivers in central and northern California, to satisfy the demands of its 13.2 million people.

After Los Angeles, Boston (USA), Mumbai (India), Karachi (Pakistan), and Hong Kong round out the top five large cities that import the most water from watersheds other than their own.

Large cities occupy only 1% of the Earth’s land surface, but the watersheds that provide their water cover 41% of the land surface, underscoring the importance of good land use in maintaining the quality of drinking water. [Pundita note: Huh?  How can you use land well when it's been covered up by highways and tunnels feeding into the megacity and by the city itself?] 

Led by Rob McDonald, a senior scientist with the Nature Conservancy, the research team found that large cities get 78% of their water from rivers, lakes and other surface sources, 20% from groundwater, and 2% from desalination.

The study provides the most detailed assessment to date of urban water sources, and is the first to include inter-basin water transfers.

The Colorado River Aqueduct transfers water from Parker Dam west to the Los Angeles area. These transfers often cause ecological harm in the source watersheds, but they can relieve urban water stress by making more water available to cities.  McDonald and his team estimate that 25% of cities are in conditions of water-stress, compared with estimates from earlier studies of 39%.  (For these figures the range is +/- 4%.)

Still, urban water stress – defined in this study as occurring when a city’s water demand equals or exceeds 40% of its available supply – is a large and growing concern.
[...]
The top ten largest cities under water stress, according to the McDonald team, are Tokyo (Japan), Delhi (India), Mexico City (Mexico), Shanghai (China), Beijing (China) Kolkata (India), Los Angeles (United States), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Moscow (Russia), and Istanbul (Turkey).

While relatively wealthy cities can keep reaching further out for more water, the environmental, energy, and economic costs of doing so keep rising.
[...]
But these cities can't keep reaching out, not in a democracy, where today law suits can stop many of the water grabs, the worst of them. The suits are launched by city and state governments that find their water sources are being sucked dry by megacities located many hundreds of miles away.

Then what will officials in the American megacities do, when they can't divert and dam any more river water and pump any more estuaries and aquifers dry?  I don't know.  Maybe try to get their buddies from outer space to take over the U.S. legal system, or watch their real estate turn into a ghost city
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