Scarce Water: Technology, Control and Use Solutions

Since the dawn of time, water has been both life’s sustainer and essence. It facilitated transformation to agriculture. On it sailed the first ships. Falling waters powered mills and steam spawned the industrial revolution. Even though water still provides food, drink and power, it is now often spoken of in alarmist fears: scarcity, drought, pollution, impurity, starvation, changing climate. Scarce Water will explore the insights that can help us better understand how far we have come with water, and how we can care for and preserve its renewal as well as cost effective use in years ahead.

Along the way, we will analyze water distribution, economics, politics and future. Efficiency, conservation, desalinization, storage and wastewater will be viewed from perspectives of natural cycles, technology potentials and threats from climate change and population growth. California’s dependence on and use of water will be highlighted. This will be extended to water challenges facing rest of world, in quest of what can be done to meet water needs of future as well as help reverse unsustainable imbalances created in past.


Scarce Water: Technology, Control and Use Solutions Synopsis

Clear, fresh, flowing water. What would our world be without it? Since the dawn of life 3.5 billion years ago, water has not only been sustainer, but the very essence of all life we know. It is about 70% of each of us and covers about 70% of our world. Water facilitated our evolution and transformed our societies from hunter gather tribes to the settled farms, cities and communities of civilizations today. Along the way it was the medium over which flowed mass transportation and world trade. Its rivers and streams powered the first machines and mills. Through steam, it spawned the industrial revolution. And to this day, water continues to bring us both the food and power that define our life and its ongoing potential for improvement.

But even with this cornucopia of good, water today is often more spoken of in alarmist fears: scarcity, drought, pollution, impurity, starvation, changing climate. The objective of Scarce Water and Technology, Control and Use Solutions is to explore the insights that can help us better understand how far we have come with water and how we can care for and preserve its renewal and cost effective use in years ahead.

Scarce water is actually a misnomer. The world is awash in water and with ocean levels rising and weather extremes increasing from global warming, we will see more water than we know what to do with. Our challenge is that it’s mostly the wrong kind of water and will be in the wrong places. With over 97% salt water and nearly 90% of remaining locked in ice or inaccessible ground water, we rely on the less than .5% of fresh water from precipitation, lakes, rivers and groundwater. Any solution to our scarce water problems will lie with extending and better using this thin slice in what we call the water or hydrology cycle before it runs to an ocean and becomes salty again.

Through technology, monitoring, sensors, control, storage and use policies, we have begun to do this. Similar steps in the future may dramatically expand and spread this life resource in ways critical to our existence. That almost sounds like something we hear about a smart electric grid, and in many ways it is. But as with a smart grid, it is insufficient without seven billion people knowing much more about the cost, distribution, conservation, preservation and renewal of our most precious resource. And more than knowledge, success requires actions on the part of all those people to give any hope of sustaining and gaining an even better life tomorrow.

The technologies that will help us extend and better use the water cycle aren’t those that may someday help reverse the catastrophic effects of climate changes. Instead they are here now, thanks to the remarkable progress we have already made in the past half century in fields of silicon, life science and information technology. These breakthroughs will become the sensors, controls and electronic networks that will enable agriculture to produce more food with dramatically less water and other inputs. Those same technologies are what will enable each of us to more efficiently control the water we use.

To supplement these and other water technology potentials such as desalinization, wastewater restoration and reuse, we will cover the realm of water economics and public policy. This will address the conundrum of how to fairly share and price a resource that has long been viewed by many as free for all, since it fell from the sky or flowed by in a stream. We will give particular emphasis to California and the West where our rapidly increasing millions live on lands that are mostly dessert. We will understand how melting glaciers in Himalayas threaten the very existence of half the world’s population, all nurtured by the five great river systems that spring from that roof of the world. And speculate on whether Asia’s four other great rivers running north to the Arctic largely unused might help relieve the threat of scarce water for half the world’s people.

Finally, we will conclude with what might come from building on the world’s most symbiotic relationship between plants and people. As long as life has been, plants have been nurtured by water to inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen while animals do the reverse. At one time more than a quarter of the world’s oxygen came from the Amazon basin, which has over a quarter of the total world’s river flow, about the same as the major Asian rivers and more than ten times our Mississippi-Missouri system. What can we learn about how understanding and building on this remarkable exchange with water as the essential catalyst that can help us not only preserve and husband precious water but also help solve other life threatening challenges associated with civilization advance, population explosion and biodiversity? Join with us to explore how these and other potentials can transform our scarce water of today to meeting our needs of tomorrow, as well as helping to reverse unsustainable imbalances we have created along the way.

   

 

Class I Slides: Water and Biosphere

Class II Slides: Water and Civilization

Class III Slides: North America

Class III Slides: California

Class IV Slides: World

Class V Slides: Savings

Class VI Slides - Policy, Economics

Class VII Slides - Summary & Conclusions

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Class Session Outline

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Inventors Hall of Fame Summary

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US Innovators, Builders, Business Hall of Fame

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