We have our share of unpredictable climatic problems. Perhaps non-climatic too.
It seems Lake Owens and the Great Ogallala aquifer have things in common, yet they’re so different.
Mulholland designed aqueducts from the Sierra Madre so L.A. could grow. Owens, circa the size from Coulterville to Pinckneyville (108 square miles), went dry. In a way, Owens irrigated a city; Ogallala irrigates a nation.
The Ogallala is under the Great Plains. Steve Safford noted it in his great letter of August 2016. It is circa 24,000 square miles, a little smaller than the State of West Virginia. It’s going dry too.
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But the Ogallala mostly didn’t come from the sky like Owens; it came from the ice age. It would take 5,000 years to recharge. That’s why some call it fossil water. It’s like a coal vein in Illinois, being mined. When it’s gone, it’s gone. That says we use much more water than is replenished daily.
The pioneers trod over it; now they say it’s a breadbasket. Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Nebraska, the demand for pasture is less, and corn more. We’re talking energy independence. That’s corn for beef and for ethanol. NG says it takes 460 gallons of water to produce a Big Mac.
Aquifers are worldwide; they’re going dry. Desalting is next. I imagine that to remove the Great Plains from production, or to pipe desalted water from the gulf to Nebraska would surely drive up prices, don’t you think?
Joseph R. Fontana, Roxana