Peter Gleick in Stockholm

by Curt Burnett on August 19, 2009

I’m regularly approached by scientists and policymakers here asking me if it is could really be true that we do not measure and manage all groundwater in California. It is. We don’t. And outside of California it is well understood that this means it is simply impossible to have a truly sustainable water system. It’s like having a bank account without know who is taking money out or how much they are taking.

Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, writing from the Stockholm Water Conference

The Stockholm Water Conference is underway, and I’m very sorry to be missing it. Maybe next year….But we have a summary report from Dr. Water himself, Peter Gleick. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, one of the things that I appreciate about Dr. Gleick is that he values irrigated agriculture, and wants to see it survive and prosper in the US. But at the same time he realizes that without sustainable water practices irrigation in many arid or semiarid locations has no future, which puts him at odds with those who take a shorter-term view.

I was talking with someone the other day about water as a finite resource that that needs to be carefully managed, and he seemed puzzled. He asked, “Can’t we just bring it in from other places?” And the answer is, well, yes, to a certain point and at a certain cost and provided whoever is using it in the other place doesn’t object. And if all else fails, for potable water there’s always seawater to be desalinated. But for irrigation that’s really not a realistic option. Which leaves…careful use of what we have.

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