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Not enough water or too many people?
by Jeff Blanck
Apr 21, 2008 | 664 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We have been hearing a lot lately about the impact that growth has on our water supply. There is a grass roots movement in Sparks to require our elected officials to only allow responsible growth that corresponds with the availability of water. This seems perfectly logical to me.

If you only have enough water to serve 1 million people then you should only allow development that supports 1 million people. But what we seem to do is allow unfettered development and then try to find the resources to support it. So far, when it comes to fresh water there is a limited supply. If we need more then somebody somewhere else gets less.

This is the California plan. Los Angeles took water from northern rural areas to supply the growing population of Los Angeles. A large portion of the water comes from the Owens Valley on the east side of the Sierra. The rest is taken from the delta in the central valley.

What this really means is that the Owens Valley will never sustain any significant growth and the delta will have its own problems of salt water intrusion from the bay. One could argue that those were the choices we made about where we wanted to have our population centers. And if those were the only areas with population growth it would make sense.

But now our growth is expanding to areas where we either don’t have the water or already gave it away. So the earlier distribution pattern is not holding up.

Here in the Truckee Meadows we are now thinking of where we can go to get water and bring it here. But we already know that this “importing” solution won’t work in the long run because of increasing population pressures.

All this really begs the question of how many people can the planet support and where would they have to live? This is like the elephant sitting in the living room that nobody wants to talk about. That is the ultimate issue of sustaining life on this planet, yet population control discussions are taboo.

We consider ourselves a higher life form to other animals. Animals just breed until they have no food supply or water and then die off to numbers that the environment can support. It seems to me that we should be able to come up with a better solution but we haven’t. There are people all over the world who are starving or don’t have fresh water to drink. I guess we are really not doing much better than the rest of the animal kingdom.

I know it is much more difficult to solve world hunger than it is to develop a sustainable growth plan for the Truckee Meadows. But with an increasing State, country and world population, simply limiting growth here will just force it to go somewhere else. The days of just assuming there are unlimited resources are over. There is no place else to go.

We need to control our development but also control our population growth. Doing one without the other just won’t work in the long run.

But focusing on our lack of water may just be the incentive we need to start thinking about our population dynamics. We have to realize that we can’t have everything we want, wherever we want. And whenever we want it.

If we don’t balance our population with our resources, we will just return to the dust bowl days. During the dust bowl some states not affected by the draught prevented people from the dust bowl states from moving into their state. They stopped them at the border. The areas with resources stopped people from coming in from areas that didn’t have resources. It wasn’t a pretty picture then; and it would be even worse now.

Jeff Blanck is an attorney in private practice in Reno. He can be reached at:
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