50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 109

River no longer flows to the sea, the water authority in California is starting to think of alternatives other than damming. Here’s what conservationists and water authorities can now discuss, debate and generally agree on: 1. Much more can be done to conserve, re-use, and recycle water in cities; 2. Agricultural water efficiency, fallowing, and decisions about which crops to grow, are often the biggest opportunity for addressing drought and water shortages. (eg. Using Colorado River water to grow hay in the desert, then trucking that hay to the coast and then shipping it to China needs to be rethought!); 3. Intensive damming, draining and destruction of rivers has been an environmental disaster, and everyone should want to be a part of the solution to restoring river systems and not damming umdammed rivers. Southern California is investing in a large new water recycling plant to turn sewage into drinking water, a technology that is already used across the world. Wastewater recycling - often called “Toilet to Tap” - is a cheaper, easier, and faster - and most importantly, SUSTAINABLE - way to get new water supplies than building new dams and reservoirs or than desalinating sea water. Durban and Johannesburg need to do the same, rather then simply plundering rivers in a way we KNOW causes problems down the line. Keeping up wasteful usage while simply using more of our scarce water is a quick-fix that is not sustainable. Conservationists and the water authorities won’t agree on everything. But unless we raise our ideas and discuss them, we can’t say we even tried. The whole discussion in California drove home one amazing point: Thirty years ago if you had approached the Water Authorities with ideas about recycling toilet water, restoring the Colorado River Delta, and tearing down dams, they would likely have laughed you out of the room. Times change. Opportunities change. Climates change. When we do this work as environmental advocates, it is always important to strongly push the right ideas forward - perhaps we are years too early and the public isn’t ready for the discussion, but the public and water managers will never be ready for the discussion if we don’t push the right ideas forward now. A study published in the prestigious magazine Science in Jan 2016 concludes that dam builders “often overestimate economic benefits and underestimate far-reaching effects on biodiversity and critically important fisheries.” The paper in Science adds to the mounting scientific evidence questioning the benefits of dam building. Recent studies found that dams drestically reduce biodiversity in tropical forests, and cause more than a million additional malaria cases each year in Africa alone. Scientists also found that with average cost overruns of 96%, most hydropower dams don’t make economic sense, and that 85% of them will have to cut power generation due to climate change.4 Let’s learn from others and let’s keep the Umko running free from the mountains to the sea. Canoeists, individually and as a responsible body, need to take a stand. For our grandkids. The forces we’re up against are big business, politicians connected to and beholden to them, quick-fix, high-profit, short-term projects, ribbon-cutting public ity opportunities. What we have to offer though is sustainable longerterm good for all. So let’s fight for our rivers, and this one in particular. But: “It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, explore the forests, climb the mountains, run the rivers. Breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive.” Edward Abbey, American author, environmental issues advocate and outdoor enthusiast. Sources: 1. Please check these frequently asked questions about dams: • internationalrivers.org/frequently-asked-questions - Data from Alex de Sherbinin (CIESIN, University of Colorado), and Bernhard Lehner (Department of Geography, McGill University. americanrivers.org/blog/dams-are-problem-creators-not-problem-solvers/ • internationalrivers.org/campaigns/water-and-energy-solutions • americanrivers.org/node/441 • internationalrivers.org/resources/the-world-commission-on-dams-framework-a-brief-introduction-2654 • america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/10/24/hydropower-developingworld.html • edf.org/ecosystems/smarter-water-use?contentID=349 • nbcnews.com/science/environment/global-boom-dams-could-mean-biodiversity-bust-scientists-warn-n238821 • mandela.gov.za/mandela_speeches/2000/001116_wcd.htm • savethecolorado.org 2. The United States, whose 5,500 large dams make it one of the most dammed countries in the world, has stopped building large dams, and is now spending great amounts of money trying to fix the problems created by existing dams. Many US communities are revitalizing their rivers by taking down or otherwise “decommissioning” dams that are no longer serve a justifiable purpose or are unsafe. Over the past decade hundreds of dams have been removed from US rivers, opening up habitat for fisheries, restoring healthier water flows, improving water quality, and returning some aquatic life to rivers. Restoration does not restore the original ecosystem, though. That is forever lost. Wherever we can we must not lose our precious riverine systems in the first place. (Read two Deepdale-Hella Hella trips here: https://wordpress.com/post/bewilderbees.wordpress.com/1105 and on http://playak.com/article.php?id=1307 ) 3. The diameter of this sphere is about 56 kilometers and the volume about 93,000 km3. Yes, Lake Michigan looks bigger than this sphere, but you have to try to imagine a bubble 7X higher than Mt Everest, whereas the average depth of Lake Michigan is less than 90 meters. See: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/gallery/global-water-volume.html 4. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6269/128.summary 109 UMKO 50 Years