By Donald A. Mounce
The July issue of WC&P includes an analysis by members of our esteemed Technical Review Committee on what is in store for the next 50 years of our industry, as a follow-up to the magazine’s 50th anniversary.
The article has generated a flood of new ideas on the future of the water industry. As a professional communicator, I always enjoy these types of stories, primarily because I get to read them first! And I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have.
It will be interesting for future historians to check these prognostications, as well as for all water industry professionals today to watch and see how many of these ideas come to fruition. The future begins with the new ideas of today.
And I am going to add one of my own.
My father worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. Those times were tough, and the only time I saw him smile about that era was discussing the CCC work that he did (other than the dastardly things that he did to earn his nickname ‘Doc,’ the details of which are probably best left for private and humorous moments.)
He was always proud of helping build the US infrastructure. He had reason to be. I am proud of the work that he and others did on such projects as the lodge at Crater Lake in Oregon, Tennessee Valley Authority dam systems and dikes and levees throughout Tennessee and Kentucky. Those who had relatives do the same should likewise be proud.
During our challenging economy, discussions by US President Barrack Obama always seem to center on the ideas and concepts of US President Franklin Roosevelt during that Great Depression period. And discussion of reinstituting the CCC is certainly not new.
Yet one ‘CCC-type’ idea that I have thought about relates to not generating a flood of ideas, but to better get a handle on flooding and floodwater reuse. Flooding in the US and around the world causes billions upon billions of dollars damage annually and takes countless human lives.
Meanwhile, this valuable water hopefully soaks into the ground or more likely rolls out to the sea. While we talk about water catchments and reuse on a residential level, why not build a program that deals with siphoning off and storing water from flooded rivers and water ways on a regional and national level?
In the US, for example, flooding up and down the Mississippi River has gotten so commonplace, many may just consider it a passing rite of spring. But if we can somehow build a system that would pump and channel those flood waters away from areas in jeopardy and excess and route them to areas in need, what better legacy for the next 50 years?
Numerous systems for oil and natural gas transference exist. Why not a system for excess flood water transfer? Mankind has built canals, dams and other resources to store and utilize the power of water. Why not build a system, even involving some existing natural areas, to quite simply move it?
Engineering, power requisites and storage/transfer issues are all key factors that have to be determined by professionals in these areas. Statistics from the 1993 1,000-year Mississippi River Flood show that 320,00 square miles of water from 100 tributaries over 58 days of rain–totaling 39 million acre feet reaching average depths of three to five feet—would have to be moved PDQ.
That would certainly be a huge and expensive undertaking. But the cost of the flood was estimated at $20 billion dollars, not to mention damage to 1,000 failed levees and the loss of personal and business productivity and security.
Chubb Michaud once told me, ”We don’t have a water problem on this planet, we have a water distribution problem.” What better way to solve that problem than to use the power of floods for a good purpose and to generate jobs and infrastructure reinvigoration at a time when all nations need it?
So, if global leaders are looking for a ‘green’ idea to hang their hats on for the next 50 years, what can be better than reusing flood water? In a public/private partnership of insurance companies and nations, the money saved on cleaning up flood catastrophes may even pay for the effort.
Maybe even ‘Doc’ would smile at the idea from the beyond. Sometime over the next 50 years, maybe I will too.