Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Will The Water Grab Hurt Las Vegas' Image?

As Southern Nevada grows, so will it's water needs. Conservation will help. But you just can't expect tourists and Las Vegas residents to give up their lawns, pools, golf courses, artificial lakes, artificial waterfalls, and all their other luxury evaporative loses.

Water is opulence in the desert. Water is status. Water is a sign of nature defying power. It's no surprise that Las Vegans don't want to believe that wasting water in the desert is somehow morally wrong. Don't be surprised either, that when they start to fear for their lifestyle; Las Vegans might be capable of rash, even desperate decisions.

I used to be a lifeguard at a pool in Las Vegas. And one thing I have learned from sitting around a swimming pool, is that a drowning person will drown anyone within reach... for a breath of air. It doesn't matter how irresponsible the victim was. It doesn't matter if the person trying to save them deserves to live more than they do. It doesn't matter how guilty they'll feel later. They'll kill you to save their sorry ass... Desperation is an extraordinary emotion. What would normally seem unthinkable, suddenly becomes absolutely necessary.

The building of the pipeline network, and the almost definite desertification of Central Nevada once seemed insane. Las Vegans fought it, and stopped it, for a while. But now that the Lake Mead water level is low, desperation seems to have set in, and they're willing to pay for it now.

Will the world support Las Vegas for doing this? Hell no! Will the tourists keep coming? If they know that by using the water and spending their money there, it would mean contributing to the destruction of the Central Nevada environment and the draining of the aquifers under the Desert National Wildlife Area and the Great Basin National Park, they obviously won't be as inclined to visit.

Customers don't like doing business with thieves – and that's just how some tourists will view Southern Nevada with this water grab. Customers don't like doing business in disgusting places, like wastelands, which Nevada will likely become without water. Just consider this; If you could go to an Indian casino and help out the Native Americans, why would you go to Las Vegas and help out the people who took the water from the Paiute and the Western Shoshone and left them unable to stop their native homeland from becoming the biggest dump in the nation – which, of course, would be right next door to Las Vegas.

On the other hand, tourists would respect Las Vegas for building desalination plants on the ocean; using solar, wind, and tidal power generators. They might even see Las Vegas as a progressive city near a vast expanse of natural land – worthy of a visit.

Who Gets To Pay For Las Vegas' Irresponsibility?

I remember 1983 in Las Vegas. Housing was relatively cheap. Traffic was tolerable. And water was flowing over the spillways at Hoover Dam... I guess those were the good old days.

The people who moved to Las Vegas back in 1983 didn't move here because they wanted Las Vegas to be like what it is today. They moved here because they appreciated what it was like back then.

However, for some reason, we've allowed the best qualities of living in Las Vegas to slip away. Why?... Let's face it, for the money. Developers and investors wanted to keep the cost of housing down, so that more people could afford to move here and buy houses. Understand, however, what I meant was their costs, not their profits. We didn't see any developers whining about the price of housing when they cashed in as home values doubled during 2005.

No, what they wanted was to keep the taxes down on new homes, so that whatever extra money got spent, went into their pockets. Of course, with new residents not paying what it really cost to move to Las Vegas, the bills got pushed into the future – which is now the present.

Allow me state the obvious. Greed should not be the primary motivation in building a community.

Las Vegas traffic is a perfect example. Had the new residents paid what it actually cost for them to be here, we might not now be dealing with gridlock on our streets. Had the cost of moving to Las Vegas been higher, the city would not have grown out of control. Had we developed the infrastructure when we should have, Las Vegas would have been a much nicer place to live.

How have the developers and the residents of Las Vegas dealt with their practically planned crisis? Well, took money from the rest of the State. They changed the funding for the roads in Nevada, so that more money would be spent in Las Vegas. That's right, when the going got tough, they ripped off the rest of the State.

Do I see a pattern here? If the developers have their way, they will get even richer cramming an even more immense mass of humanity into the Las Vegas Valley – with the false promise that water isn't a problem. And of course, it won't actually be, if they just take the water from the rest of the State. And don't be surprised if they find a way for the rest of the State of Nevada to have to finance that too!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Desalination Equals Money

Let's imagine that Southern Nevada decides to do the right thing and build desalination plants off the coast of California. What hidden benefits might they realize?

The present desalination technology of choice is reverse osmosis, which is energy intensive, due to the high pressures required to force water across a membrane. The desalination plants themselves, however, are not all that expensive. Which means that with new membrane technology, the cost of desalinating water will go way down. And if the plant is already built, all you'd have to do is retrofit the membranes and make some minor modifications to the pumps.

Here is the hidden benefit; modifying an existing plant would be way faster than starting from scratch. An existing desalination plant is ready to supply customers with fresh water as soon as the technology is available... While other companies would still be in the planning stage, the first plant on the block would be making profits towards building a second plant.

By installing carbon nanotube-based membranes in an existing plant, not only would the cost of desalination likely be reduced by 75%, but the volume of water would flow much faster through the plant... Translation; much higher water yields at much lower costs.

In other words, a desalination plant already in place would be in position to provide much more water than initially designed for, with far higher profits. Existing desalination plants will have a commanding lead to provide for California's massive, and growing water needs.

And the more desalination plants any company initially has in place, the more likely they will dominate the market.

Let's Do Desalination First

Guess what. There is an alternative to sucking dry an area of Central Nevada almost the size of Vermont... an alternative that doesn't create a wasteland here.

Southern Nevada could build desalination plants for California off the Pacific coast in exchange for a bigger allotment of the Colorado River. We could make it very attractive to California. We could offer them 10% percent more water... or 20%... or even 30%.

Yes, desalination may cost more than just taking water from your neighbors, but it still leaves you with options in the future.

The ground water here hasn't gone anywhere for tens of thousands of years. And it won't be going anywhere soon if we only pump it out for critical needs. Nevada law presently states that Nevada residents can pump the water out if they can show “beneficial use.” The law was written in the 1800's for small farms, not major industries or massive exportation. Nowadays, this law essentially means that the first to waste the water can be the ones to have it. If we can modify this law to interpret “beneficial use” as drinking water, water for crops and livestock, and most notably ignored at present, water to save for future generations; then the water will be there when we really need it.

As far as the cost is concerned, I'm still not convinced that desalination is that much more expensive – and new technology promises to make it far less expensive. Anyway, the people who move to Southern Nevada should pay for it. Their presence here will be the reason that there will be a need for that extra water. And you can bet that these people have no desire to destroy Nevada, the place they love so much that they're willing to move here.

Let's do desalination first. This is our home. We won't get a second chance.

What are SNWA's intentions?

So, just what are Southern Nevada Water Authority's intentions?

Right now, the Las Vegas area doesn't need any more water than it already has. At their present population, there is no need to take water from the rest of the state. And even years from now, it isn't likely that Las Vegas will need the full capacity of the pipeline network.

So, it seems a little strange that a municipality should not be inclined to do the fiscally reasonable act of trying to build for the need. Let's consider a personal example, if you're at the store, and you realize that you need three gallons of water, why would you buy 30... and lug all that home at once.

The water grab covers a huge area. It extends from; on the west – the Nevada Nuclear Weapons Test Site, on the east – the state of Utah, and on the north – the water chugging coal fired power plants to run the pumps for the pipeline. This is pretty much the largest area they can get. And; during talks with White Pine County, the SNWA was unwilling to agree to any limits as to how much water they would take, how fast they would take it, or relinquish any real power to a scientific oversight committee.

That's right, the Southern Nevada Water Authority is attempting to position themselves where they can get as much water as they physically can, with no restrictions on their behavior. Their representatives may be telling us that they care about the economic and environmental condition of Central Nevada, but they haven't been willing to commit to one solid, tangible promise.

So... it only makes sense for us to be suspicious of their intentions.

There is potential here for billions of dollars in illegitimate profits.

Some one may be thinking – or may someday think; why pay to desalinate water for California, when we could get them to pay us for water from Central Nevada?


Hello, my name is Rick Spilsbury. I am author of the book lifehacking and the primary author of the blog and video blog No Shoot Foot.

As you may have guessed from the “Tonto” sounding title of the vlog, part of my ancestry is Native American. Hey, I may as well play it for all its worth.... But seriously, there are cultural differences between my people and the rest of the people who call themselves Americans. It took me most of my youth to realize it, but we really do think a little different. Partly because of that, I feel that I have something to offer... a different perspective.

So, for enough money, would you shoot yourself in the foot? I wouldn't. I don't care how much money they offered. It just isn't worth it... Yet figuratively, to make a quick buck, we indirectly make a habit out of shooting ourselves in the foot. Moreover, we don't seem to have any qualms at all about shooting each other in the foot... What this all leads to, is we all end up with big, gaping, bloody holes in our feet, when we wouldn't otherwise do it – if we only used some common sense. Hey! No shoot foot!

I will often speak about lifestyles and politics. Sorry, I feel I have no choice. I'm starting to believe that American's attitudes and systems are crazy dysfunctional. So dysfunctional, if fact; that we are possibly witnessing the beginning of our planet's total environmental collapse, and we're all pretending it isn't happening! Face it; if you're not worried, you're not paying attention. We, as a civilization, are at best, shooting ourselves in the foot. It doesn't have to be this way. Just don't pull the trigger! No shoot foot!

I may occasionally speak about religion. Now, don't get all worked up... I have no desire to change your religious affiliation. But, I do hope that you, from the inside; can help make your religious organization healthier. No organization is above reproach. Every organization is comprised of fallible people. And no, I'm not talking about priests and young boys – I'm talking about just not focusing on the really important issues enough – because they're way too controversial for our whole society to face. The biggest controversy is the one no one is willing to talk about...

So; if here in this life, we chew up the carpet and crap on the sofa, why would God allow us in Heaven? Some say that God will provide. Maybe God already has provided. If we destroy the Earth we've got, maybe we don't deserve heaven. If you shoot yourself in the foot, you don't get another foot. No shoot foot!

I will also occasionally speak about health, healthy attitudes, and healthy communities. If you can't wait, or want to contribute an article, please visit the lifehacking.org website. Thank you.