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Water, Water Everywhere, But Not A Drop That We Can Spare . . . U.S. in Need of Water Distribution Network

By George Schmok

While I really don't want to get into a debate (at least in this column today) over whether we are experiencing global warming, global cooling, man-made climate change or a natural fluctuation in climate, the subject of water is always fluid . . .

The good news in the Southwest is that with the increased rainwater and snowfall, July 2011 over July 2010 water levels in the four major water reservoirs serving the Southwest have either risen (Lake Powell +27 ft., Lake Mead +30 ft.), remained flat (Lake Mohave 1 ft. below capacity), or are at virtual capacity, like Lake Havasu.

While news of increasing waters in the Southwest is great news, the news of increasing water in the grain belt is devastating, as the Missouri, Mississippi, Souris and Red rivers are all overflowing their banks.

Before man graced these areas, the floods were regular and probably the main reason for this fertile grain belt and huge aquifer under the plains. However, with human settlements there, floods are definitely a problem, and drought is definitely not the hot topic it was just a few years ago.

In fact, according to the National Weather Service ( the only place the U.S. is experiencing any persistent drought is in a contiguous elbow from western Oklahoma, through central Texas, and eastward to northern Louisiana. At the same time, in the entire southern U.S. from eastern Arizona to the Texas elbow, and from southeastern Texas to North Carolina, drought conditions are all expected to improve.

It's All or Nothing

Responding to their current drought conditions, community after community throughout the southeast and southwest put water use restrictions on landscapes. Now, with water levels rising, California cities like Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena and Crescenta Valley are beginning to lift those restrictions. At the same time (and quite logically) cities and communities throughout the ‘elbow' are beginning to insert new restrictions.

It's interesting to note that Florida, where drought conditions are expected to improve, is tightening water restrictions. Palm Beach homeowners are now restricted to watering their landscapes during one 4-hour window a week.

When water is scarce, landscape is always a target. Fountains are shut down. Lawns are left to dry in the sun. Artificial turf is laid like carpet. When water is abundant, it's time to build another golf course, open up a water park and break out the Jet Skis . . .

Water usage in the landscape, however, is minuscule compared to the amount used in agriculture, industry and in the home. Unfortunately it is also the most visual and easily changed . . . Especially in the eyes of the political machine.

Not Just a Local Issue

Where is the middle ground? Where is the comprehensive water policy? Where are the reservoirs and water diversion apparatus?

We have a national transportation network. We have a national power grid, and national food distribution networks. The United States needs a comprehensive national water distribution network.

If you took the money spent repairing the flood zones this year and built reservoirs and pipelines to the Southwest, South and Southeast, those rivers wouldn't be the hazards they are today. Reservoirs would be full, crops would be planted and landscapes would be green everywhere. Such projects, of course, would include landscape architects and landscape contractors and would also help stabilize the landscape industry.

At the same time, drought-prone regions need to develop landscape water use ordinances that make sense at all times, or at least are managed so that in times of extreme drought the shift isn't from lush to arid in one stroke of the pen . . .

Only when water use and distribution is looked at as a national concern will we develop less reactive, more pro-active policies that will allow landscape and community development to reasonably flourish in all but the most extreme conditions.


God Bless . .


George Schmok, Publisher

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December 14, 2019, 7:44 am PDT

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