Water is one of our most basic and important
natural resources. In fact, I would say that it is
the most important! Oil and metals give us a
higher quality of life, but we could (and did)
live without them for thousands of years.
Imagine a line running through the middle of
North Dakota through the middle of Texas. (Almost)
everywhere west of that line uses more water every
year than nature can provide. This means that they
have to import water from other places or pump out
groundwater faster than it can refill. Southern
California has been importing water from Eastern
and Northern California for 100 years already! The
Eastern USA also pumps groundwater, but there they
get enough rain to replenish the natural water
supply as they pump the water out.
Desalination is a very important process. We are
literally running out of water in the Western USA.
Unless we build huge water pipelines from Northern
Canada (which has been proposed!), we need to find
a new source of water, and the ocean is an obvious
candidate. The problem is price. Desalination is
not cheap. Groundwater is much cheaper.
Desalination won’t replace groundwater until
groundwater becomes more expensive (which is
happening). I don’t know how quickly this
transition will occur though. In places like Los
Angeles, it will probably happen faster than in
places like Phoenix, because Los Angeles is on the
coast, so there isn’t a large transportation cost.
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