This post is about arid. It turns out, this is something about which I know a little bit.
Arid isn’t a place. It isn’t a special piece of ground. It isn’t always flat or sandy. Arid means just one thing: the annual amount of rain the area gets is minimal. Everything else is tangential. An area can be arid yet support significant amounts of wildlife including trees and animals. The Sahara was not always a dry wasteland — it was made that way by human farmers a very long ago time.
Aruba, for example, doesn’t have any aquifer. No “running water.” But it does get rain and it has always been part of the Island’s culture to catch all the rain and save it against the days when the rain does not fall. Now, I think, they have desalinization and I have had it for a long time.
I spent nearly five years at the University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory. One of the most important projects was trying to convince farmers in the northern part of Israel to not use chemical fertilizer. Almost all of Israel gets at least some rain (a few spots, like Eilat, do not), but it is an arid region. The amount of rain expected is typically less than the amount needed to wash away pesticides and fertilizers. To this end, our crew of experts in air, water, earth went out to convince (okay, beg) the farmers to please not use those fertilizers. We offered them alternatives. Insects that would kill the weevils and stuff they could add to the soil to make it more fertile.
They didn’t listen. Before the mid 1980s, the aquifer in Israel died.
A dead aquifer does not revive. Once gone, it stays gone. After that time, Israel went along using solely the water in the Sea of Galilee for drinking. As the population increased, water use got increasingly dodgy. Finally, many years after they should have been built, desalinization plants arrived and now there is water. It’s a small country, so sending water from one place to another isn’t so difficult. Not like it would be here, in this big half of a continent. Their pipes don’t have to run from the Great Lakes to the center of the hottest part of the south.
Not like the United States.
The first time we were in Arizona, I remember hearing people saying no one needed to worry about the lack of water because “they” would send water down from the Great Lakes.
How did that go? Anyone start those pipes yet? I was glad to see, when we were back last year that the state had done a lot to protect the land. The big cacti are protected and grow everywhere. Arizona is working hard to keep the water they have and use it effectively. A lot of the “fancy gardens” I remembered were gone. Home gardens grow sensible plants — mostly cactus. The air is better, too.
Someone listened and something good was done.
This year has been a good for water. Too good, with a lot of flooding. Still, there has been plenty of rain and the big lakes where water is held for drinking are full.
Until the next drought.
The American southwest including California and Utah is arid. It isn’t arid because “nothing grows there.” Things will grow there if you give the land a little more water. But reality doesn’t change. You can’t keep sending in more and more people to an area with severely limited water resources. Arizona doesn’t even have an ocean from which to draw water via desalinization.
There is a limit to how many people the area can support and I’m pretty sure it has already been breached. This year, there is water. What about next year and the year after that?