Merchants of Thirst

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen — 14 January 2020

featured-imageWater tankers ply the city streets bringing essential supplies of fresh potable water to thirsty neighborhoods.

“For city authorities that are already struggling to maintain the current supply as climate change strikes, let alone source additional water, tankers can seem like a safety net they feel powerless to resist.’’

So Peter Schwartzstein writes in a feature piece in the New York Times titled “The Merchants of Thirst” in the 11 January 2020 online edition.

The Times’ article is about a real and important issue: the inability of many cities in developing countries — and sometimes well developed countries, such as South Africa — to provide adequate clean, safe and drinkable fresh water to homes and businesses, even in their larger cities.

To fill the gap, fleets of water tankers (as pictured in the featured image) roam the streets of these cities, delivering much needed water to homes and businesses, filling everything from large 100 gallon tanks to 5-gallon jerry cans and even 1-gallon jugs. Of course, in most cases,  the tankers are selling this water to desperate customers.

I can confirm from personal experience in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic that this is a real and ongoing problem. It is more often the poor that end up paying the sometimes exorbitant prices demanded by the tankers — they have no choice when water ceases to come out of the pipes. Note that the wealthier neighborhoods are less commonly under-served by the municipal water supply — and when they are cut off — they have standby water tanks pre-filled and fitted with electric water pumps to ensure that water continues to flow when the faucet is turned on. High-rise apartment complexes sell themselves on their ability to supply 24/7 electric power utilizing on-site dedicated diesel generators and 24/7 water supply — from on-site multi-thousand gallon cisterns buried beneath the building.

Every country I have visited, with the exception of those in Europe, uses water tankers for some purposes. Even where I live in Upstate New York, there are water tankers that fill swimming pools in the spring and dump water down dry wells in the late summer.

Many of us may not realize that when there is no water flowing out of the pipes it means: No showers, no baths, limited cooking, no dish washing, no clothes washing, no toilet flushing.

[In the Dominican Republic, it was common practice for homes to have a 50-gallon drum in the bathroom — which would be kept full with a hose from the sink or shower — next to the toilet. A gallon-sized water scoop made from a used bleach bottle could then be used to flush the toilet even when the water pipes ran dry.]

Apparently in keeping with the NY Times’ editorial narrative for climate change — which seems to require that every story on an ever-longer list of topics blame climate change for any and all negative circumstances — the problems related to Water Tankers in various places is hinted to have something to do with Climate Change, which is claimed to be adversely affecting the water supply in these places. However, it is in fact almost totally unrelated, even where there are real, physical problems such as drought.

In one word: Infrastructure

The real-world problem is infrastructure — inadequate, often antiquated, infrastructure. That is both not enough infrastructure and failing infrastructure.

To deliver fresh potable water to homes and businesses, these cities must have a whole list of major items; as illustrated in this diagram of Oahu, Hawaii’s water system:


1. Sources of water — dependable rivers, reservoirs, aqueducts and water treatment facilities to sanitize the public water supply.

2. A water distribution system — once the water is treated, it must be distributed throughout the city — down every street to every home, apartment building and business. This distribution system has valves and booster pumps and supply mains and distribution pipes of adequate size to meet the demand of customers.

3. In many cases in poorer countries, public water fountains and faucets need to be supplied for those neighborhoods not served with water piped directly into individual homes.

Schwarzstein reports; “But no matter how hard the [tanker truck] crews worked or how furiously they pushed their lumbering vehicles over the potholed roads, there was no satisfying the city’s needs. The going was too slow. The water shortage too severe.’

The fake news is right there. It is the sentence “The water shortage too severe.”

What water shortage?

There was no water shortage — not in Kathmandu. There was a water delivery problema water infrastructure problem — Schwartzstein reports it — right after the false information. The whole article starts with the truth “It had been 11 days since a ruptured valve reduced Kupondole district’s pipeline flow to a dribble,…” — a valve in the water supply main had ruptured leaving the neighborhood without water. He goes on later: “By the time the pipeline was fully restored, some households had subsisted on nothing but small jerrycans for almost an entire month.”

There is nothing in the entire article about an actual water shortage in Kathmandu — yet the Times’ author repeats three times that the problem is water shortages and climate change.  He cites problems in Chennai, Indian and in Cape Town, South Africa.

They have had problems in Chennai, India, which has traditionally depended on the Indian monsoons to supply water but where the reservoirs have been allowed to silt up reducing their capacity while the population of the city of Chennai has grown out of control — without any additional investment in water infrastructure — no new reservoirs.

Time Magazine reported the Cape Town situation as:

“The Cape Town crisis stems from a combination of poor planning, three years of drought and spectacularly bad crisis management. The city’s outdated water infrastructure has long struggled to keep up with the burgeoning population. As dam levels began to decline amid the first two years of drought, the default response by city leadership was a series of vague exhortations to be “water aware.”

Not enough water or too many people?

Both, actually.  Chennai, India had a population of 4 million in the year 2000. Today there are almost 11 million. [World Population Review reports 10,971,108] — nearly a three-fold increase in twenty years. In 2001, Kathmandu had a population of 671,846, today it is just under 1.5 million — more than doubled. Cape Town population in 2001; 2,900,000; in 2020 4,617,560 — adding one and a half million additional people, plus businesses and agriculture.

Rich or poor, localities cannot expect to meet the water needs of today with the infrastructure of the past century.

We see these recurring factors: There are too many people in an area without dependably sufficient natural fresh water supplies — in Chennai and Cape Town — both in naturally dry areas which are prone to drought. We see burgeoning populations without commensurate increases in water supply infrastructure and, in many cases, without adequate maintenance of existing, already inadequate, infrastructure — particularly in Kathmandu. The island of Phuket, Thailand, dependent on monsoonal rains, had water problems last year — with the same factors — skyrocketing population and inadequate water supply infrastructure. In each case, we see poor government — poor planning — poor crisis management.

And we see weather — good weather, bad weather, too dry weather, too wet weather. And we see slowly changing, ever changing climatic patterns with broad changes in atmospheric and oceanic circulations — and the coming and going of El Niños and La Niñas.

To deal with ever changing weather, and slowly changing climate, requires good government and adequate national wealth, well spent, to prepare first for the present, and then for the inevitable but unpredictable possible futures. All three of the localities covered in the Times have not even properly planned for the present — not kept water supply infrastructure up to the task of keeping up with population growth and local water needs of agriculture and business — not even in fully modern Cape Town. India,  Nepal and Thailand  are in far worse situations — broken and inadequate infrastructure, planning decades behind the needs of times, governments without sufficient funds to make needed corrections and additions.

Politicians fall back on blaming Climate Change — something they can’t be expected to be held responsible for — for their own shortcomings and failures. The international community is equally happy to blame Climate Change for the misery of local peoples left without basic cheap clean safe water supplies — blaming climate, the universal scapegoat, rather than supplying humanitarian aid to help where it is really needed.

The international community needs to focus more of its humanitarian aid effort on the real and pressing problems of water supply in developing nations — a pragmatic approach that will be a win-win regardless of the vagaries of climate.

Without any need to invoke Climate Change, Cape Town’s narrow escape should inform the megalopolises of the American Southwest  (in particular Southern California  but including such cities as Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada)  of their imminent and possibly unavoidable danger — they share a common Mediterranean climate and are historically subject to droughts and mega-droughts. Both have out-of-control population growth and tourism growth as well as heavy demands of agriculture on water supplies. The American Southwest and especially Southern California are just one extended drought away from a massive water crisis.

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Author’s Comment:

This story represents the ubiquity of blaming climate change as a means of avoiding responsibility for the failings of civil society. It is interesting that even wealthy countries like South Africa suffer the same problems — albeit on a lesser scale — as seen in poor and developing countries. Money cannot obviate the damage caused by lack of governmental foresight and lack of continuing infrastructure investment.

I grew up in Southern California, living through periods of drought and periods of seemingly endless rains that washed homes and whole mountainsides into the sea. For those with interest, the movie-classic “Chinatown” tells some of the story.

Please begin our comment with the name of the person you are addressing if replying to something specific. Begin with ‘Kip…’ if speaking to me.

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166 thoughts on “Merchants of Thirst

    • When you let incompetent people run essential infrastructure–or entire countries–this is what you get.

    • Government failures always attributable to lack of funding, yet they can never account for the dollars that went (were spent) before. The necessary infrastructure either never materializes, out of all that spending or never gets the necessary maintenance to keep it in tip top working order. Ironically men and women of average means get elected or appointed to Government Position of authority and mysteriously retire from public office multi-millionaires.

      Yet they need desperately for us to believe there is a man made climate problem and that those with a near perfect record of failure are going to spend us into the pink by redirected the individuals money into that black hole referred to as Government Spending.

      I keep looking for the design specs on that Global thermostat that is going to settle us all into that perfect climate around the globe that will save all of mankind from themselves as well at keeping natural variability at bay and make every day a near perfect day.

      • Bill ==> The primary form of government in the developing world is Kleptocracy.

        The same type of government found almost everywhere.

        • My point exactly but more succinctly stated. Good comment Kip.

          Our Representative Republic took a little more time than most Governments in the developed world to evolve to a kleptocracy, but just as water seeks it own level other peoples money seeks out Politicians/Bureaucrats offshore bank accounts.

  1. Hey, it’s not that many years ago when we had a little bit of dry weather in the good ol’ rainy UK. Such that “droughts” were declared in some regions. There was the pitiful sight of lines of trucks shipping water from the NE (Kielder reservoir) down to the urban centers of Yorkshire.

    Such was the public outcry that the water company easily fixed the problem with a better water supply in the next few years. Doubtless it made a dent in their profits, but the solution was already at hand before they were caught with their pants down.

    It’s the same almost everywhere else in the world. You usually have to pay only a little over the long term for water supply. The real problem is that politicians are unwilling to carry the political risk of spending today to ensure what is needed tomorrow. No amount of blaming global warming is ever going to change that.

    • I’ll add that water supply is still probably one of the best areas for the world’s billionaires to spend their philanthropic money on. Most bang for their bucks, if only they could disassociate themselves from the Hollywood global warming approach.

      • “I’ll add that water supply is still probably one of the best areas for the world’s billionaires to spend their philanthropic money on”

        I read somewhere (reputable) that $10Billion would get the world clean water.

        When you think that 10’s of 1000’s of kids die from water related problems every year and the amount of money pissed up the wall on ‘climate change’ this makes my blood boil.

        It would be fantastic for Trump/ Johnson to commit to solvign this and see the left winger’s heads explode.

        • Nial ==> I’m afraid it would cost a great deal more than that. My wife and I worked with a program to install 500 water wells in rural parts of the Dominican Republic, even with the government supply the labor, we spent $250,000. And these were hand-pump wells….no water treatment plants, no water mains, no reservoirs.

          The solution to these huge problems are complicated. The best approach is to work with smaller local groups and governments, helping localities solve local problems, and promoting national programs that lift these countries out of poverty so that they can pay for larger solutions. Large international aid progrmas can help with capital intensive projects like dam building.

          • I’m afraid it would cost a great deal more than that. ($10Billion)

            The $1 trillion + that was spent in Afghanistan by the US could have made a big dent in the “potable water problem” in the US.

          • Samuel ==> Quite right — military spending dwarfs all else. On the other hand, Americans are generally free of the fear or roving armed militias controlled by war lords. I have never been stopped on the streets here by gangs of automatic weapon toting thugs demanding I “get out of the car”.

            I can’t say the same for at least four other countries that I have lived in.

          • It made little to no difference to the potable water problem in AF. Again, an example of incompetents running vital services. Do I really need to explain further?

      • I spent April, May and June 2012 working on the coast of East Anglia in the south-east of England. The previous 18 months had been unusally dry and the river, lakes and reservoirs were at record low levels. Needless to say, virually every news outlet and “scientist” claimed that this was a clear sign of climate change and the residents of East Anglia and farmers in particular would have to adapt to a much drier climate.

        After a typically miserable Scottish winter I was quite looking forward to some nice dry weather!

        I was sorely disappointed! It rained almost non-stop for the entire time I was there, working a great deal of my time outside. By the time I left, the rivers, lakes and reservoirs were full again and the weather returned to its generations-old patterns.

        Unsurprisingly nothing was said by the doom-monger that perhaps this wasn’t climate change, just plain old British weather.

        I’ve no doubt that was what strted to make me sceptical of the doctrine and dogma of man made cliamte change.

        • Munro ==> Yeah, that’s weather for you. Public Planning is hard to get right, apparently. It is easy to see on a personal or family basis….how many people today put aside enough money to see they through two or three years of unemployment? — even though they see friends and family laid off or unable to work for such periods?

          The same with public water supply — we know there are drier times — sometimes for a year or two or three (like in Cape Town) — yet do not spend public money to build and maintain reservoirs adequate to the task.

      • michael ==> Thanks for sharing the local water scene in Yorkshire. In wealthier countries, like the UK, problems can be corrected by throwing a little more money at them — the consumers money in the long run — and all is well.

        In many parts of the developing world, 24/7 running water is still a dream — even when there is existing water infrastructure it is so inadequate that water is rationed. When the water is on, every home fills jerry cans, drums and water tanks against the times when it will be off again.

        • Kip, I live in an off-grid area of North East Arizona. Most of the people around me don’t have running water and have to either haul it in in 250 gallon water containers or have it delivered at a cost of $75 for 500 gallons. If you can haul it yourself you can purchase for a penny or two per gallon.

          I am blessed I have a well and and a jet pump that pressurizes the water to the cabin from a 2500 gallon water tank. I lost all but about 100 gallons of water in that tank when the jet pump finally gave up the ghost after nearly 11 years. Had to order a new one so the wife and I lived on that 100 gallons of water for 10 days. Redid the plumbing in the well house so I could shut off the water from the storage tank and jet pump so I wouldn’t lose it all in case of another jet pump failure.

          Occasionally neighbors will ask if they can come and get water when they run short of money and can’t purchase until the next month. I gladly give them the water and like your write up they come with jerry cans and 1 gallon jugs.

          It just isn’t the poor nations that have these problems.

          • Chemman ==> Your conditions sound like much like that in rural Dominican Republic.

            My wife and I did a bit of homesteading when we were young as well. It is hard for me to understand why you would live in such an inhospitable location — with the constant threat of living without water — but, that said, I have lived on the unsympathetic sea for 1/2 of my adult life, where fresh water supply is always a #1 problem.

          • “It just isn’t the poor nations that have these problems.”

            Personally I very much like the idea of living well away from most everyone else, in the mountains or the desert. However, there is no rational reason for the social structure to spend the money to serve just those few who want to get away from it all. ‘Normal’ power, water, sewage, garbage disposal, road maintenance, etc. would almost certainly cost many times per person what it costs in areas where people live nearer together and where many more people are available to share the cost.

          • Andy ==> Quite Agree. I have lived in areas served only by individual water wells most of my life on land — and at sea, well, there is no fresh water unless you catch the rain (one has to generate one’s own electricity as well.)

          • Kip
            Yes there are 1000s of farms and rural properties all over the developed world without reticulated water or sewer.
            Many also don’t have mains electricity.
            But the combined weight of the individual’s wealth and the community ( governments) support network making doing without these services bearable.
            It is very rare that an Australian household collects water from a well, has a hole in the ground for a toilet and has no lighting because they can’t afford it.

          • Waza ==> Thank you, I didn’t think so. In fact,the news report of the little lost girl and her dog revealed that her families station encompassed “a million acres” and that her neighbors helped search for her in their private helicopters.

  2. I saw a piece last night on PBS about Chennai water shortage, even though they get 55 inches of rain per year. They started to entertain the idea of catching the rain water in cisterns, what a great new idea.

    • John Bell ==> The Chennai problem is very Indian….the rivers are too polluted to use as water sources so they must needs use large reservoirs…lakes…but the lakes silt up reducing capacity while the population soars. Chennai used to be called Madras and is an industrial center — people flock there to get jobs.

      Chennai has a population of 11 MILLION — like greater New York or Greater Los Angeles. Imagine if New York or LA suggested that the solution to their water problems should be homes collectoing rain water in cisterns…..

        • Don K ==> Thanks for the link on rainwater catchment rights in the various States. All my homesteading days were in areas of plentiful rainfall — but years on our sailboat taught us to catch freshwater with tarps and buckets, particularly for clothes and dish washing.

        • It finally came to me that the reason they use cisterns in some parts of Hawaii is that if you live near the top of a very large pile of lava, there may not always be handy aquifers to sink a well into.

        • Don,

          Good list for state by state laws but it misses something crucial, does the state allow lower level government entities such as county or city to restrict water collection? It’s an important point of law because I’ve read to many cases where the state allows rain water collection but a city maintains that it’s citizens do not have that right.

      • Instead of looking for “the” solution, why not have a range of solutions and apply them approptiately? I used to live in the city and we had a 3000ltr water tank so we could water gardens and wash cars even during water restrictions. During that time many water saving regulations came in, low flow shower heads, dual flush toilets and city councils gathering storm water . Cumulative effect was a big reduction in consumption per capita.

        Now we live in the country and have 90,000ltrs of water storage and never buy water. Average rainfall 700mm per annum.

        There is no silver bullet, many and various things need to be done.

        • yarpos ==> Pragmatism calls for a multi-faceted approach to almost all Big Problems.

          One overriding cognitive error in our modern societies is the desire for The Solution — a single-cure all for complex problems. This exposes itself in Science — where we are presented with SINGLE NUMBERs claimed to represent the immensely complex planetary climate — GMSL, GAST, CO2 concentration…..

  3. With the best laid plans of mice and men we’re still dependent on the weather-

    Fortunately we have diesel tankers to remedy the situation as you wouldn’t want to rely on EVs for hauling heavy loads (and the bullock teams would probably drink what they could carry along the way)-

    • observa ==> Long term drought, too many people on isolated farms and ranches, lack of government involvement ???

  4. Kip Hansen, I must respectfully disagree It is all about the problem of “Climate Change”. The trillions of dollars wasted on the “Climate Change” hoax have dried up the money that would have prevented or alleviated this problem. It is similar to the problem of getting electricity to the regions of the third world without it. They cannot get the money to build reliable Coal powered power plants. So that the people who believe in the man maid “Climate Change” hoax can show how virtuous are.

    • John ==> If it were only possible to re-allocate national and international funds to address these types of pragmatic problems — to help real people where they live.

      • Hi Kip,
        “This story represents the ubiquity of blaming climate change as a means of avoiding responsibility for the failings of civil society.”

        You’re right yet City and Regional planners are responsible for local needs water and waste management. Governments are responsible for funding these managers in civilized countries.

        Instead of pointing a finger at developing counties let’s look at SoCal.

        Poseidon has spent millions and decades of effort on SoCal. They have been thwarted at ever turn by idiot Eco groups including the Surfriders org. and jackass politicians in California.

        Explain to me how we can point a single finger at anything other than our own foolishness. The UN should be smarter yet they aren’t.

        I lived in SoCal for many years and I’m glad I left!

        • The Zetas and the Surfriders

          “About 10 years ago a company called Poseidon Resources set out to build a 50-million-gallon-a-day desalination plant at Carlsbad, Calif., near San Diego.”

          “A decade of studies, hearings and litigation ensued before the company finally won approval from the California state regulators. There may well be further challenges.”

          “The project’s main nemesis has been an organization named the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group founded by Malibu surfers in 1984 that focuses on protecting beaches and marine water quality. Today it has 50,000 members and 80 chapters worldwide.”

          When I was in SoCal, I spoke with several Surfriders and discovered they had no idea their organization opposed Posiden’s efforts. They were aghast at the ignorance as jobs and water were top of mind!

          This is what happens when loons are elected to manage 5O1C3s.

          • ” If the [our] country has so hamstrung itself with regulatory process and tolerance for greens gaming the system that public agencies responsible for the water supply think that contending with the Zetas in Mexico is a more attractive option than contending with the Surfrider Foundation in California, are we facing an environmental crisis of existential proportions — or a governance crisis of existential proportions?

            I agree with you Kip but it’s closer to home than you may realize.

    • “The trillions of dollars wasted on the “Climate Change” hoax have dried up the money that would have prevented or alleviated this problem.”

      Not sure that’s true. That money would have otherwise been sucked up by corrupt officials. It’s not a lack of money, it’s a lack of honesty.

  5. Kip:
    Could you tone down the practical common sense a bit? We might come to expect that from all the reporting we read, and the disappointment of unmet expectations is so depressing.

    • Richard ==> Sorry, mate, life-long habit of mine — got me in a lot of trouble in the corporate world as well. I’ll try being a bit more go-along-to-get-along in the future….

  6. Kip
    Excellent essay. This is all new information if you were born yesterday. When I was in school in the 60’s and again in early 80’s I came away with the belief that water was the one ecological problem that needed to be addressed and nobody did until it became a disaster. In my Masters program in 1980 I was told that 80% of world drinks polluted water, I wonder if that number is better or worse. From your essay, I would say things have not improved much.

  7. My father was a surveyor so I was well acquainted with one of our early surveyors after South Australia was first settled by Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s free (white) men’s dreams in 1836. It’s a salutary tale of ignoring the science George Goyder could see in the landscape while there was a succession of unusually wet years until the average returned and some settlers perished cut off from water with only horse and ox to get back to reliable supply-'s_Line

    Goyder’s line as the limit of cropping still stands today and gives you an idea of the driest State in the driest continent unlike the east coast and its Great Dividing Range and tall forests. Above that line is largely semi arid saltbush and bluebush with sandy deserts for cattle grazing on vast cattle stations with Artesian bores and troughs as well as being home to introduced camels from Afghan cameleers turned loose after rail and truck made them superfluous-

    The large top salt lake you see in that map is Lake Eyre which can fill from tropical flooding up in far north Queensland creating a vast inland sea with fish emerging from the lake bed and vast predatory birds and pelicans coming to feast. But pay attention to the light blue sea line below the coast as that’s the outline of the continental shelf and where the coast line was some 15000 years ago before ice melting and what you see today. All that CO2 in the atmosphere from aboriginal cooking fires and traditional burnoffs to flush out game according to these new scientists and their computer models.

    • observa ==> Thanks for the history lesson — very interesting. Ignoring already obtained knowledge is one of mankind’s failures.

      • Well from that Goyder’s Line wiki and the satellite map you can see we do have sclerophyll forest in the south due to the low pressure systems running west to east coming up from Antarctica reaching higher in winter and bringing most of our rainfall as it does to most of Victoria subsequently. That’s why this summer we’ve had bushfire in the Adelaide Hills but more dramatically on Kangaroo Island with its large National Park and timber reserves-

        Yes they always seem to start in untouchable NPs and spread out from there threatening life and property as well as the native fauna. Lots of koalas on KI have perished naturally but it was only recently they wanted to cull them as their numbers were predating too severely on their Eucalypt food source. No you can’t shoot them so naturally ‘rehousing’ to the mainland was the order of the day but now nature has largely finished the task.

        But here’s the rub. There were no koalas on KI until 18 were placed there from the mainland in 1930 and the population grew massively so much so they were a population problem but there’s more. Unlike mainland populations and being isolated they don’t suffer from chlamydia that’s developed in koalas and limits their fertility so don’t worry they’ll be back big time along with their food source recovery. Fancy the ancestors interfering in nature like that!

  8. The ancient Romans were able to supply their city with fresh water through civil engineering projects. OK, Ancient Rome was pretty small by modern standards but we do have all this amazing modern technology instead of slaves so we ought to be able to do better.

    • Susan ==> We ought to, but don’t. Think how long it would take to get approvals to build a new dam in the United States — if it is even possible anymore.

      • Same happens elsewhere Kip…here in Chile is almost impossible to build new dams. Most of the ones near Santiago were built in the 1960s! I don’t understand how anyone can oppose building them in a country with Mediterranean weather such as mine. Insanity.

        • Fran ==> Hang tight — there appears to be some public awareness there in Chile that the Climate Hysteria is a cover-up for kleptomaniacs running the joint.

    • Some of the original Roman aquaducts are STILL in use to today to supply Rome with fresh water; and I recall hearing/reading somewher (Unfortunately I lost my source, please do take with a grain of salt) that Rome during Roman times got twice the fresh water it receives today.

      “Modern technology” often isn’t needed, what’s mostly needed is common sense and the will to go DO the project, rather than endlessly mire it in regulations, challenges, conferences and other obstructions.

      • Jerome => Well, we do need modern water purification systems — no one wants to build running water systems that deliver yellow fever, dysentery and cholera.

        Greater Rome has about 4.3 million people today. They require a lot of clean fresh water.

        • As I understand it in some US states it is illegal to catch rainwater, even from your own house roof. Is that true and why?
          If you want to see the story behind the Romans’ efforts in water supply, have a look at Rome’s Invisible City.
          Alexander Armstrong gives a fascinating account of the underground constructions that the Romans used to supply water and remove waste using modern holographic technology.
          It was on BBC1, so may be viewable on iPlayer.
          Well worth the time.

          • Stephen ==> another reader left a link about the legality of catching rainwater. Use your browser’s page search function to find it.

    • beng135 ==> Quite right. But we have been ignoring real climate issues for a long time…allowing massive population growth in areas lacking adequate water supplies —

      • Kip;

        In parallel, in NY state the local gas company was refusing hook ups because Cuomo had nixed the pipelines that would bring in adequate supplies. Well, Andy-boy got his knickers in a twist and threatened fines, lawsuits and government takeover. The company caved. Now when the inevitable shortages appear during a hard cold spell after 50,000 new hookups, do you suppose the governor will be the one to take it in the shorts? Yeah, I don’t think so either.

        • D.J. ==> Cuomo belongs in California with the other virtue-signalling eco-nuts. (not to be judgemental….)

  9. The voters of California have committed tens of billions in the 21st century to “clean, reliable water.” Instead of building storage and infrastructure, the politicians have siphoned off the funding, telling us the storage is “unfeasible” and continue to blame “climate change” funding the narrative with with those funds.

    To wit, this year begins state-mandated water rationing, starting at 55 gallons per person per day due to the “permanent drought” caused by “climate change” as declared by former Governor Brown who declared in his first term in office back in the 1970s, lower your expectations, if we don’t built it, they won’t come.

    Infrastructure was not built but today California is doubled in size since them and we are all paying for those bad decisions in so many ways.

    • California has plenty of water for its population if it destroys its agriculture economy in the southern inland valleys. Most vulnerable to agriculture shut will be the southern end of San Joaquin Valley below Visalia to Bakersfield if there is significant depletion of the Sierra-Nevada snow melt fed reservoirs. Further south in California, the Imperial Valley gets its water from the Lower Colorado River which has its head waters in the Colorado Rockies, south-western Wyoming and eastern Utah, so drought conditions in one area may NOT be seen in the other area. It will be the choices water managers at the Bureau of Reclamation and state and federal politicians will have to make. But people and cities will get prioritized over agriculture.

      Just like its electrical infrastructure mismanagement, California has long mismanaged its water infrastructure by not building more reservoirs as its population has ballooned over the past 40 years. A century-old overallocation of the historical water flows from the Lower Colorado River will also add to the misery.

      If a severe, multi-decadal drought does come to the Sierra Nevadas, then invariably the commercial agriculture south of Fresno will die so that the water can service the population of So California. How sever this will be also depends on what happens on the Colorado River with Lake Mead and Lake Powell levels and the demands on this resource from Las Vegas and Phoenix.

      A bigger threat to the entire California Aqueduct system and the population to LA that gets lage part of their water from though goes unsolved. And that is the threat of severe earthquake damaging the aqueduct and thus its ability to deliver water to the south. There is documentary that re-runs on the History Channel occasionally that highlights this danger.

      From Wikipedia on this subject: “The Clifton Court Forebay (a primary intake point for California Aqueduct) as a “strategic piece of California freshwater infrastructure” subject to shutdown for up to two years if struck by an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 or greater.”

  10. Would the controller of the simulation please push the Commifornia elites to secede! I would love to see the Green Weenies cut off from their stolen Federal water supplies like Hetch Hetchy and the Owens Valley. Since no new water storage has been built in almost forty years, while population has grown exponentially; it would be fascinating to see how the SJW elites would respond to little or no available water. Just saying “nuclear-powered desalinization” would probably cause thousands of heads to explode!
    I went to a lecture by an epidemiologist years ago where he claimed the lack of clean, drinkable water was the largest cause of ill-health worldwide. I would love to see the U.S. put together a coalition of nations to build reliable water and electrical infrastructure in Africa. Sort of makes the racist Greens put up or shut up. Maybe millennials could work off their college-loan debt by working in Third World countries and let them see how spoiled they really are. I doubt it would change many minds as religious beliefs are difficult to reboot, especially Progressive religious dogma.

  11. Water lines are good. It shows that the water is being distributed to the people properly. In some unnamed countries only the rich get the water and the poor die of thirst.

    • Jay ==> That is absolutely and unfortunately true. In my experience, they don’t die of thirst, but rather they die of diseases from drinking polluted water from ditches and brackish sloughs — and it is the children that die most often.

  12. Kip – very good article, thanks. I lived in Abu Dhabi in the early 1970s, and was very impressed with the engineering of their ancient water supply, which was still operating.
    The general countryside there is incredibly dry, the annual rainfall is pitiful, and yet the ancients had constructed a brilliant system for providing reliable water.
    It is tempting to think that mankind’s ingenuity knows no bounds, but that is true only where it isn’t restricted by political incompetence and corruption.

    • Mike ==> Incredible. But these marvelous ancient systems can not be stretched to supply water to a new city of 100,000….

  13. Everything is blamed on climate change – though nobody can say how the climate has actually changed in recent years. Some say it’s warmer, some say it’s colder, some say it’s drier, some say it’s wetter.

    No matter what, it’s all blamed on the catch-all bogeyman of “climate change”.

    Reminds me of that old joke:

    “If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody hears it, did it really fall down?”

    Answer: “It doesn’t matter, it’s STILL the man’s fault.”

    Sexism and paternalism used to be the catch all bogeyman for society, and it is in some extremist feminist quarters .. but apparently they don’t hold a candle anymore to “climate change”.

  14. Kip,
    “This story represents the ubiquity of blaming climate change as a means of avoiding responsibility for the failings of civil society” YES!
    I live in Chile, a country in even better conditions than South Africa, and although we don’t have grave issues yet in the cities, there are some areas of the country that depend on water trucks, and which perfectly reflect the stuff you talk about. For example, the province of Petorca near Valparaíso hasn’t have a proper water supply for a long time, and of course lots of people blame climate change (it has been in drought for several years in between the last decade or two), but it really isn’t all about that. The reality is that for every legal well there is another that was built illegaly, including huge ones that go into avocado plantations, trees that suck a lot of water but are very profitable. The area depends on rivers that originate in low hills, not the Andes, so they never had much water to begin with. This all led to the small farmers there loosing their water streams, hence their animals and ultimately crops; now they depend on water trucks, or desalinization plants. The agribussisness there has never been properly sanctioned for the water stealing. Even without drought this would be a major issue!
    In here, agriculture gulps around 80% of the water supply and is a huge sector of the economy, so is not hard to see major conflicts of interest between the owners of big plantations and politicians. How can you explain that they keep diverting water and building illegal wells but nothing of real substance is done about it? And this happens all over the country, not only in Petorca.
    The good thing is that most people know what really is happening, climate change or not. In the social unrest we’ve had since October 19′, one of the popular chants in the protests was “No es sequía, es saqueo” (it’s not drought, it’s pillage). We know those in power have neglected securing proper water supply, and have allowed the rich to steal water, drying big parts of the country.
    And, of course, a huge part of Chile is Mediterranean – Valparaíso is pretty near the start of the Atacama Desert, Santiago is not that far south – places with major climate swings. One year is wet, like 2017, then we get 2019 in which we barely got any rain at all. The government KNOWS that, everybody does! We have to built more dams, desalinization plants, infraestructure, and have better oversight from the government to quell irregular wells. We can do better!

    • Fran ==> Thank you for filling us in on the water situation in Chile! As I understand it, Chile has become rich on agriculture, supplying the North with fruits and vegetables (and flowers) during our winter season. Agriculture needs water — lots of it.

      Your situation there is a lot like California in the 1950s — with regions fighting over the control of water to allow highly profitable agriculture in areas really naturally too dry.

      Hopefully your national leaders will get together with the agricultural conglomerates and formulate plans to build infrastructure to keep the money flowing to Chile from abroad.

      • Kip, thanks, the current big drought coupled with the social unrest is changing things; as I said, more people are aware of the actual problem, hence there’s more pressure on the goverment and politicians to try solve the issue. I really hope we can find ways to keep the agriculture running but make it more sustainable water-wise, and I hope radical greens don’t block the necessary building of dams and desalinatization plants. Cheers!

  15. Came to northern California fifty years ago, when the population was 20 million. The state now has 40 million with no more storage. So fill in the blanks, this is us.

    • Don G ==> Yes, precisely my message. Infrastructure already stressed in the past century is being depended upon to supply water to doubled populations and trebled agriculture.

  16. “In the Dominican Republic, it was common practice for homes to have a 50-gallon drum in the bathroom — which would be kept full with a hose from the sink or shower — next to the toilet. A gallon-sized water scoop made from a used bleach bottle could then be used to flush the toilet even when the water pipes ran dry.”
    I have this—a 50 gallon drum filled with water. This one is “high tech” with a cheap plastic pump to manually remove water from the barrel through an opening in the top and fill containers. I had one at our cabin and have one in our home. We have water, but not when the electricity goes off. Thus, the barrel. Plus, bottled water and bulk drinking water (we don’t drink our well water). When you live on a well, water is never a given.

    A lost of peole in rural Wyoming haul water from a water station in large tanks, then either use the tank for water or fill a cistern. It’s always amazing to me when people claim running water maintained by the city or country is a right. It really isn’t.

    • Sheri ==> It has only been 20 years since my home in Upstate New York was connected to a municipal water supply. Previous to that, we had two wells that supplied water — and yes, only when the power was on. Small gasoline generator was called into service to provide basic lighting and well-water during outages.

      The second well on our property supplied water to a neighbor for six months when his well went dry.

      In the basement of our home there is a government pamphlet entitled “Running Water — You Deserve It” pinned to the wall — almost 75 years old. I have left it there as a reminder.

      Clean safe drinking water is essential to human life and modern societies. Where it is not currently available, society has failed its people.

  17. Literally minutes ago, Scottish Television News announced that policing costs alone could cost hundreds of millions of ponds for the COP26 conference in Glasgow!
    There are no words to describe the level of my anger at the gross misuse of public funds which will be spent on this madness.
    No doubt thousands of cult members will be parading around Buchanan Street with their imbecilic slogans and pictures of Saint Greta.
    This piece of utter nonsense is taking place in a city with one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country.
    Pure hubris and conceit from a bunch of contemptible, hypocritical, feeble-minded , jumped-up priests of stupidity will be talking cac whilst residents of Glasgow are using foodbanks and sleeping rough.
    As far as I am concerned, they can all pogue ma hone.

    • Finn ==> I think I am glad I can’t translate the last bit….

      Maybe the government will be smart enough to use that vast monetary expenditure to provide at least temporary work for the unemployed and siphon some off to improve conditions for the homeless.

  18. Here in Canada there has been an ongoing scandal about water supplies on Indian Reserves. However the problem goes much further with many small communities having ‘substandard’ water. The problem 2-fold: where the source is peaty, there is high dissolved carbon in the water which leads to the formation of organo-chlorine products, particularly where flows are low; secondly, the high dissolved carbon means that giardia and cryptosporidium cannot be killed by UV (giardia is carried by beavers and other wildlife). Getting dissolved carbon out needs chemical sedementation or ion exchange – you can’t just pump readily available water.

    Our small community has been under notice from the health department for years because of these problems, but the previous Board was convinced to spend on water meters, because of the hype about water shortage (we have enough water in the reservoir to go 3 years without rain which is an oxymoron is coastal BC). We are getting close to where the government will appoint a person who will build a new plant and bill us. However the new Board is now getting going on the problem, and having control means that the cost will be much lower – as much as 1/3, based on other communities.

    One thing you learn in getting this kind of infrastructure built is that most people are just like the Sainted Greta – ‘The gov’ment should do something’. The other is not wanting to pay what it will cost, so lets not do anything.

    • Fran (in Canada) ==> Infrastructure is HARD — planning and paying for huge capital projects is hard. In the minds of the general public, in my opinion, is the idea that “water is free” unless it comes in 20-oz bottles (in which case they are happy to pay the outrageous price of $1 a bottle). Thus, they don’t want to spend six million on a new water project.

  19. mod – why has the system let someone in Argentina use ‘Fran’? I have been posting under this name for at least a year.

    • Fran ==> Kip here — I’m not sure that comment handles (names for commenters) are unique in the WordPress system. WUWT moderators do take action on impersonators who use the real names of real people known here. They tracked down one impersonator who was using my name a few years ago.

      To prevent this confusion — I might suggest using a more descriptive and less common handle to comment here.

      I have replies to the other Fran in South America today…and she seems nice.

      • Roger that.

        My name is too common, I post occasionally with my full name, but there is a much smarter guy that goes by Mark G.

        • Mark ==> My personal preference is that people use their real names, the fuller the better, as that helps them moderate their views and to be held accountable (even if only to themselves).

          Thanks for your support on the issue.

      • This is Fran haha and yes I’m in Chile…no idea why the site wants to use my name for other commenters!

  20. Two observations:

    1- Even when a water system exists, service is often interrupted, as the water tank trucks are either owned by, or pay kickbacks to, politicians who control that system. A hidden cost to use of tank trucks is the damage they do to paved roads. (my observation is specific to Guayaquil , Ecuador)

    2- I live along the Wasatch Front in Utah. Our population has about tripled since I was a boy, but water storage has not. Water use behavior has not changed in that time. Even in a good water year, the reservoirs are drawn down nearly to empty by the end of Summer. The Wasatch Front is a semi-arid zone that relies on mountain snow for most of its water. Water is a finite resource that can vary significantly year to year. Even with increased storage, water use will need to be reduced in order to sustain a growing population. Decreasing water use by facilitating conversion of landscaping to xeriscape and irrigation to subsurface and recycling treated water into a separate irrigation system can put off the inevitable for a few decades. Improving water storage by reducing evaporation could extend things a bit longer.

    Another note, modern sewage systems are often inappropriate for developing communities. They require substantial amounts of water to make them work properly and substantial amounts of money to install and maintain treatment plants. That being said, alternatives have been proposed, but I am unaware of successful long-term application of those systems in an urban environment.

    • AC ==> On my last trip to Utah, I was appalled by the number of new homes being built on bull-dozed sand — big homes too — half million dollar homes with several baths and water gulping landscaping — all in a desert.

      You might recall that Utah was colonized by a people who felt that no one else would want the place thus they would be safe there.

      As for Ecudaor — quite right — the streets in poor neighborhoods (and in some entire nations) are not built on proper roadbeds, thus can not take the weight of heavy trucks — water tankers included. I suppose that in Ecuador the rich get water and the poor areas are cut off in times of shortage?

      • Kip,

        If you saw sand, you must have been in St. George, which is proper desert (and quite beautiful, which is why people move there to retire). Utahns in general are unaware of just how precarious their water situation is. Some people lost their landscaping when the irrigation water ran out in their system late in the water season a few years ago, but there still is not a sense of urgency about changing behavior. We love lawns here, but it takes a tremendous amount of water to keep the grass green. The water companies have been encouraging people to plant less thirsty turf grasses, but those alternatives are not readily available.

        What is driving population growth in the Salt Lake area is the influx of companies from California. The NSA has an enormous server farm and Facebook is building one, ironically, because electricity (coal powered) water, land and wages are cheaper here. The server farms are not big employers, but the other companies coming to Silicon Slopes (I don’t like the name but apparently it did well in focus groups, and that is what is important these days) have been doing a lot of hiring as well as transferring employees here (Adobe has more than doubled the size of their offices), driving speculative development and pushing home prices higher.

        In Guayaquil, when the water is out, it is out for everyone. The rich tend to have larger cisterns, so they can ride out a shutoff better. The city has been pretty good about extending services to invasion areas that have been legalized. Water is not a problem, but treated water can be scarce, though with all the illegal perforations in the system (low pressure system, as is prevalent worldwide), the water that makes it to the tap might look clean, but is likely not fit to drink and many use after-bath disinfectants, just to be sure. People in the third world seem to expect that water from a tap should be free, but they don’t hesitate to pay for bottled water. Now that is some successful marketing.

        • AC ==> Thanks for the additional data. We have many friends in the SLC area and visit every few years.

  21. Kip: In 1966-67 I was Geologist-in-charge of the Geological Survey of Nigeria’s office in Jos, Northern Nigeria, the principal mining area. Nice title, but the office was me, a male typist and a messenger with a bicycle. No phone, received orders from HQ by telegram from the railway station (ergo, the need for the messenger).

    In addition to identifying minerals brought in, being a lecturer at the new School of Mines which I helped build along with a metallurgist who was a technical aid worker from Poland, I was to locate groundwater supplies for larger towns on official telegrammed requests. And, in case I had some spare time, I was given a little ole 30,000mi^2 area of unmapped country (geologically) to map.

    I received a request for town water supply for Gombe out in the dry sahel which at the time was served by water truck. I examined the geology, found a sandstone unit that would dip under the town and was delighted that the driller interesected the unit about 300ft down and it was charged with sweet water. I sent in the details for pipe, pumps (3 wells) etc and was assured it would be built in (I think) 3 or 4 months. Some 15 years later at a party, I met a couple who had just returned to Canada from Gombe!!! I proudly enquired about the water supply and they said, ‘Oh, we had a water truck come by once a week.’

    • Hi Gary Pearse, – Readers of WUWT should know that in some sites where water is found the recharge rate of water coming in is relatively slow when the water is taken out. In these kinds of sites the amount of water available can not support a large populations’ demand.

      Possibly in Gombe this nuance turned out to be a feature & thus leading to the need for water trucks. I have hunted down fresh water sources & come across issues with recharge rates in some sites.

      By the by, when I 1st worked in Africa it was 1969 & I recall having village mothers thrust their youngsters toward me telling them if they didn’t behave they’d be given to the white man. A few female villagers wore on their torso just a white brassier as status symbol among the otherwise bare breasted females.

  22. Reading through the comments I see several people already banging the drum I intended to beat. Allowing incompetent people(no matter how “well intention-ed” they seem) to run anything always results in incompetent outcomes. I live in western Pennsylvania and we, as a region, are dealing with major problems in local water systems. Money disappearing, maintenance not done, maintenance improperly done, contaminated sources being tapped for use, etc etc. Can we have these people held to account? No. County, municipal, State and Federal let them skate, or outright side with them against the citizens who are being screwed over. The same is true in Ohio, Michigan and New York around us. Even with ground water contamination in specific areas we should not be having these problems which are due to personnel, not climate or contamination.

    As for developing nations, I been in a few, and what I saw as the major problem, after lack of capital investment due to folks being too poor, was governmental corruption, followed by climate. ( hard to have sufficient water when you live in a huge desert, thank you Sam Kinison) Even drilling wells is a major problem, requires reliable electric at the least, then running lines to those who need water, then defending those lines, electric and water, from vandals or rivals or simply those of a certain religiosity.

    It is a major problem, one which the left is using for its own political aims.

    • 2hotel9 ==> Yes, it is hard to understand how we have these rather primitive problems here in the States. There should be State-level oversight on local systems, and there should be enforcement of standards — as well as investment from State coffers.

      In the third world, well-meaning efforts are all too often ruined by kleptocrats.

  23. In my Gringolandia I have a hand dug 55 feet deep fresh potable water well & made the meter wide concrete casings on site; to be fair I had great paid help. Water replenishment seeps in from the sides seasonally at variable rates & in 1 of the last 20 years it ran dry during a drought.

    My neighbors closely followed all along the well digging developments & about 1 Km on either side of me 2 put in their own wells. They bragged about their water volume being so much better. In a few short years their wells were infiltrated with salt water from the ~1 Km distant sea & usage abandoned.

    In the 1990’s, before I settled there, that coastal sector had a 6 year drought. Apparently the townspeople from 5 Km away would come with their water containers to top up from the little spring up in the foothill behind where I bought land.

    When I 1st visited that town about 25 years ago it was easier to get townspeople to give you a bottled soft drink than offer a glass of water. The town now has piped water & “my” village 5 Km away wants that kind of convenience instead of managing among fellow villagers the spring water allotments. We are out of luck because piped town water hasn’t enough pressure to go beyond a ridge between it & “my” village.

    Most of “my” village land is semi-arid & land used for cattle rearing. Every day someone has water trucked in for the thirsty livestock. Some households will need to buy water during the dry season; both due to amount of personal usage & spring water scarcity when a cattle owner pirates what was in the spring water catchment.

    • gringojay ==> Give us a hint as to location? Continent? which coast?

      My first house Upstate NY along the Mohawk River had a sprint-fed cistern in the basement — which I tried to rehab — but the spring was on a neighbors property. We had to make due with the drilled well.

  24. I’ve studied tyranny, government, for decades. A few truisms have emerged from that study.

    The first truism of government is: “History informs that the criminal syndicate of theft and violence, government, can only produce 5 things: Lies, poverty, misery, destruction, and death.”

    Relying on such an entity to deliver such a vital life sustain resource is foolish at best.

    • Jay ==> It is estimated that 80% of all Americans live in urban areas — and thus mostly rely on municipal or other public water systems of some sort.

      It has only been twenty years since my semi-rural home was finally connected to a public water system — mostly driven by the demand that we eliminate the use of our private septic tank, connecting all the homes along our road to the state financed water treatment plant (for which we are still being billed….).

      We have two wells on the property, which I maintain for back-up use.

  25. All the suffering is simply the crime of wasting resources by the millions on hoax problems and not spending the resources instead on known solutions to make life better for all. Climate Change panic bla bla is evil at it’s core.

    • Tom ==> Unfortunately, there are many places in the world that simply do not have the resources — not even to waste — and what little they have is misappropriated by kleptocrats.

      My experience in the norther Caribbean region — Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Haiti mostly — has brought home many lessons about national economies. A nation must have something to exchange in the international marketplace to acquire foreign capital. Without something valuable to exchange, they must create the wealth within their own little nation — which is usually not possible — thus, these island economies are poor.

      Most island nations exchange beaches and other tourist attractions. Some exchange “unregulated financial services” (money laundries). In the 1950s, some exchanged cheap labor — sewing clothes and the like. The Caribbean used to exchange sugar and rum and slaves.

      Building resilient national economies is not easy — even when local leaders are mostly honest.

  26. We all know that “climate change ‘is nothing but a deliberate deceptive term. It can mean almost anything. Global or regional warming or cooling at the very least. Global warming , including warming ocean temps. should mean lots of evaporation, lots of clouds and lots of rain. All of this talk of droughts and water shortages point at cooling of the ocean surfaces.Certainly this seems to be the case in southern Australia .The argo buoys show a drop in average temps and the indian ocean dipole has delivered cooler surface temps and weaker winds. The result is history.Warmer is good,cooler can be disastrous.

  27. Kip-

    The comments are filled with examples of when the responsible actions you call for were not taken, with the results of inadequate water supply.

    To prove your point, I thought that you would like to hear of a place where the water supply agency did take responsible action and worked to provide adequate water supply for a growing city for many years into the future.

    When I moved to San Antonio, Texas, almost 50 years ago, the municipal water system got it’s water from the Edwards aquifer. The Edwards is rechargeable and large and deep, so at the time, San Antonio thought they had their water supply figured out. However, not only did the city grow fast , but the agricultural usage grew fast also, with resulting usual disagreements between the city and the rural areas over water rights.

    As I said, the Edwards is very deep and could have probably supplied the demand, except for the actions of a few environmentalists. The max level for water in the Edwards is somewhere around 700 feet above sea level. When the water level drops below somewhere around 630 feet, some of the springs in the Texas hill country dry up. There are small fish in these springs. So yes, they were declared endangered species, therefore the springs were not allowed to dry up. So the water level was not to drop below about 630 feet, which it sometimes did during dry periods. The immediate reaction was water rationing during the summer months. Not severe, but inconvenient.

    Undeterred, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) looked for other sources of water. It found another small
    aquifer south of city which had some water, but had room for lots more. Over the past several years, when the Edwards has plenty of water, some of it was pumped into the smaller aquifer. This aquifer now has enough water to supply the entire city for 6 months if needed. SAWS also arranged for long term supply contracts from two areas well north of the city (one several hundred miles away) and installed pipelines to bring this water to San Antonio.

    Yes, our water bills went up some, but with a tiered water rate system, water is cheap for those who use just a little. The result is that San Antonio has a dependable water supply at an affordable price.

    So yes, Kip, you are right, all it takes is a competent government agency doing it’s job.

    • Old Engineer ==> Thank you for sharing San Antonio’s success story with us. We needed a positive to offset the many examples of failure.

      If only other areas would follow their good example.

    • old engnr says:
      competent government agency doing it’s job.

      Those are more endangered than the fish in the springs.

  28. The wonderful water delivery in Ancient Rome was paid for by wealth obtained by conquest. It was not an economic system.
    In the Third Century an experiment in authoritarian government went out of control and the bureaucrats destroyed the economy. One can say that like today, a welfare dictatorship and a military dictatorship ruined the economy. Rome, the city had almost 1 million people, of which half were on the dole.
    Today’s water systems should be privatized and run as a utility, with accountability.
    In Michigan there was the Flint City example when state employing would not test the water supply according to regulations.
    Even worse there is a community in Northern Ontario, that has been on a “boil water advisory” for 25 years.
    Canada’s federal government can’t seem to fix it and obviously the locals can’t either.

    • Bob ==> Many of these problems seem so simpole — yet in the real world, can get complicated, complex, and difficult to solve.

      I am a proponent of refusing building permits for new homes and businesses where future water and power cannot reasonably be guaranteed.

  29. Good article, Kip. If you’ve followed the news lately, Lake Michigan (possibly the other Great Lakes, too) has been overflowing its banks during the past week and as far as I can tell, the entire watershed is as close to flooding as you can get. Last report on Lake Michigan was that it was now 37 inches higher than normal. That storm we had last week not only sent waves crashing over the entire lake shore, but also eroded more of the beaches and damaged the paved walkways from the South Shore up to the state line, and probably more than what was just reported on the news. Some of that wave action went right into the yards of people who thought they had enough distance between the shore line and their homes.

    What made it worse was that any water that reached past the beach limits to the Outer Drive froze and made driving hazardous. I don’t think this is going away any time soon, either, but I don’t know how far north there was the same damage, or how much damage by waves pounding the shore occurred on the eastern shore. Nor has there been a report on Lake Superior or any of the other Great Lakes about it. That may not come up until spring, but the rivers are full and close to overflowing.

    Seems as though if there’s a drought or low water level in one place, there is the opposite in another place. I don’t know if any of this means we’re meddling too much with Mother Nature’s designs, or if it’s just how things are, but I will not be surprised to find that my favorite places to visit with a camera may no longer have trails because they are all under water and it isn’t going down.

  30. Kip… Could you comment on the de-engineering of management. In Australia many jobs that required engineering qualifications have been restructured into administration/management type jobs. Previously there were City Engineers who managed water supply in many towns. Now this is done by Manager, Services or the like. The qualifications for the the job are now Business Management or the like. The engineers are far down the ladder. Engineers like to build things. Administrators like to avoid responsibility.

    • Richard ==> I am not personally familiar with the shift away from real engineers to managers.
      Any readers here have experience with this?

  31. Here in Australia we are suffering one of the worst droughts in modern history, some would say the worst. The current bushfires reported worldwide are partly as a result of this drought.
    The engineer who designed the Sydney harbour Bridge as well as Story bridge in Brisbane, designed a watering system for Australia in 1938 that has still not been implemented to this day, making use of the substantial rainfall, meters of rain, in the tropical north of Australia and re-directing that water into the inland existing inland rivers through a series of dams, tunnels, pipes etc.
    This was named the Bradfield Scheme, lots of articles on the internet about it.
    Over the years there have been enquires at a govt level, costing millions about the viability of this scheme, if only some of that money had been spent on the scheme.
    Today the Chinese are buying up farmland for cents in the dollar, remember drought stricken, in a long line down the center of Australia. They are thinking add water. Need I say any more.
    Feel free the edit as you wish

  32. Kip, although Australia’s population is relatively small at around 25million we too have serious water problems, lack thereof. Australia accepted 238,300 migrants in the year ending June 2019.

    We have monsoonal rains in the north flowing out to sea, while vast areas in other parts of Australia are suffering crippling drought. Our Murray Darling rivers now have higher demands on them, including overseas interests who have bought up water licenses and can choose whether or not to sell their water. The river system ends up in South Australia and environmentalists won the right for the river to supplement waterways so as to keep them fresh. These same waterways had been traditionally brackish, being infiltrated with seawater. In more recent years dredging had stopped. Our farmers had to watch waters flow past them, waters they weren’t allowed to access so that waterways in SA had a top up of fresh water.

    Some people are suggesting that more of the migrants should be sent here to the regions. We are struggling to provide enough water to those already here. The truth of the matter is that we need to sort out our water infrastructure nationally and cut the number of new immigrants, at least temporarily.

    Our government has spent tens of billions of dollars on wind and solar renewables. That’s tens of billions of dollars that would have been better spent on building dams and putting in other water infrastructure.

    • Megs ==> I am truly sorry for the troubles faced by the Australian people. On the upside, you have representative democratic governments and the people can change the government to get one that will be responsive.

      • Kip, what I have described to you is under a conservative government, returned to power only in May of last year. The only other major option is leftist (democrats)/greens.

        Our society would be a total basket case if they were in power.

  33. Kip: If all California had to do was provide water to people and industry, they’d be in OK shape. The California Water Project, Central Valley Project, Owens River aqueduct and Colorado River aqueduct taken together represent a huge investment, a lot of engineering, and a pretty successful attempt to move a lot of water over great distances. More than enough for 40 million people and a few semiconductor fabs.

    The problem is the need to provide CHEAP water to agriculture in the Central Valley. They can sort of do that in wet years. In dry years, not so much. But you can’t just not water your almond groves and such in dry years if you expect to have a crop when(if) the rains return.

    Then there is California water rights law which might be generously described as demented. It’s sort of first-come-first served except when it isn’t. So if the original owner of a plot back in the 19th century raised a few grapes and irrigated them, the current owner can probably take that much water (but no more) from the stream the original owner used. If there is any water in it to take. But all the upstream and downstream landowners that took water from that stream in earlier years get their allotments first. A problem to administer? You bet.

    There’s lots more. And no one seems inclined to try to straighten things out because any attempt to rationalize things will harm someone financially and/or hurt wildlife and/or screw up the salmon run somewhere and will summon virtual or actual lynch mobs to the doors of anyone crazy enough to try to fix things.

    Here’s a link that describes some of the issues.

  34. We have the tools. We have the technology to solve the world’s water problems:

    “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World”by Seth M. Siegel

    Let There Be Water illustrates how Israel can serve as a model for the United States and countries everywhere by showing how to blunt the worst of the coming water calamities. Even with 60 percent of its country made of desert, Israel has not only solved its water problem; it also had an abundance of water. Israel even supplies water to its neighbors-the Palestinians and the Kingdom of Jordan-every day.

    Based on meticulous research and hundreds of interviews, Let There Be Water reveals the methods and techniques of the often offbeat inventors who enabled Israel to lead the world in cutting-edge water technology.

    Let There Be Water also tells unknown stories of how cooperation on water systems can forge diplomatic ties and promote unity. Remarkably, not long ago, now-hostile Iran relied on Israel to manage its water systems, and access to Israel’s water know-how helped to warm China’s frosty relations with Israel.

    Beautifully written, Seth M. Siegel’s Let There Be Water is and inspiring account of the vision and sacrifice by a nation and people that have long made water security a top priority. Despite scant natural water resources, a rapidly growing population and economy, and often hostile neighbors, Israel has consistently jumped ahead of the water innovation-curve to assure a dynamic, vital future for itself. Every town, every country, and every reader can benefit from learning what Israel did to overcome daunting challenges and transform itself from a parched land into a water superpower.

    Incidentally, Israel offered to send teams of experts to Cape Town. Cape Town refused because of their solidarity with the Palestinians, who are not nearly as stupid as the South Africans.

  35. Judith Curry has often described climate change as a wicked problem.
    But is nothing compared to the most wicked problem of all POVERTY.
    Poverty as a wicked problem is intertwined with education, lack of jobs, health, crime, poor government.
    Lack of water and waste water( just as important) is a key contributor to Poor education, poor health and waste of Human Resources.
    The late Hans Rosling video on the magic washing machine is excellent

    Just try to imagine a adolescent girl not going to school because she has to manually collect water from a well and then hand wash her clothes.
    Hans Rosling also highlights that babies per women is the key indicator of a nations wellbeing.
    All actions that improve the health and education of girls should be the highest priority of all nations. Providing reliable reticulated water and waste water infrastructure is probably the most important of these actions.

    • Kip’s article is something I would like to see more of on WUWT.
      Other world issues more important than climate change
      As a climate skeptic I find having an arsenal of talking points available when challenging alarmists.
      Alarmists struggle when I highlight that the education of teenage girls is more important than climate change.

    • Waza ==> All very good points. My wife and I put in about 12 years of humanitarian service in the northern Caribbean before I “aged out” and I can verify that all you say is true.

      Thanks for the link to Rosling’s Magic Washing Machine. Education, basic electrical supply, clean safe water, basic sewage systems — all so important.

  36. Waste water is just as important as water supply.
    Since the dawn of civilisation the Nile River has been suppling drinking water?
    Only now after 5000 years the Nile is struggling. Not because of lack of water or over population but because the level of waste water being treated can not keep up with the water being pumped from the river. This means the next town down the river has to spend more on water treatment. Uh oh
    Waste water contamination of of ground water is also becoming a problem

    • Most people don’t realize that you don’t “consume” water, you “use” water, then it goes back into nature, even what you drink returns to nature, through sweat or going to the bathroom.

      • Davis ==> Quite right — but the availability of clean potable fresh water where it is needed is often a problem.

        In my area, our potable water supply comes from an inconsequential creek with a six foot dam, with a water treatment facility. Water not used to supply our town simply flows over the dam and on into the Hudson River thus to the Atlantic Ocean — where it is “lost” as fresh water. I often correct people here about “wasting” water — what we don’t use in our homes goes to the sea.

  37. Epilogue:

    My thanks to all of you who have joined in the conversation on the Water Tanker phenomenon.

    Lots in interesting input and some great links — several on the Australian situation including the heart rending story of a little Aussie girl lost but now found.

    Thanks for reading!

    # # # # #

  38. I like WUWT
    Best all time thread.
    My family has missionaries world over. (Even China in 1950s)
    Our large family erected hundreds of windmills in the prairies. Rural electric happened next. Wind and electricity. (daughter EE PhD power systems). My company partnered with Enron wind to bring Wind farms to
    Tehachapi Mountain Range. We like CO2. My wheat fields draw 17,000 pounds per acre and use less precip when CO2 rises.

    Tossing some thoughts, the people problem i see is human interference. I like the post on Israel which is dry and creative with solutions. Australia has problems. Most are hindrance problems tied to suits in cities.

    • Henry ==> Thanks for weighing in. My grandfather was a missionary (and school teacher) to the Lakota Sioux, my father born on the banks of Wounded Knee Creek. My wife and I put in 12 years of humanitarian work in the Caribbean.

  39. For proper treatment, and transport (pipes) of potable water and sewage, you need quite a bit of cheap, abundant power, such as electricity.
    Oh wait, we don’t want developing countries to have cheap, abundant energy, even if it would solve a multitude of medical issues.

    • Davis ==> There are a lot of dark downsides to the current international thinking on energy issues for the developing world, especially Africa.

  40. Kip,
    Great essay, I do a lot of work in rural Indonesia and the sight of women carrying buckets of water long distances is amazingly common. Always a real source of perspective for me to see people in 2020 teetering on the edge of survival. A far cry from our common SoCal origins, a little bit of infrastructure really goes a long way. A plastic tank, ($40), some PVC and a pump and bang, sister can go to school instead of schlepping water up the hill all day…..

    I know you water, gonna miss you when yer gone…..

    • Tim ==> Yes, all over the world, women and children lug water. My wife and I would stop and load Mom and her six children, each with size appropriate jugs (5 gallons for adults, down to 1 gallon for the little ones) into the back of our pickup (a practice entirely forbidden by our NGO for insurance reasons) and drive them to their destinations — often shocking far along the road. Many times it was not apparent where the water came from — but it was never a safe drinking water source.

  41. I tried following the South Africa drought story.
    What is the solution there? given that 1 the population is growing, 2 the reservoirs will go low occasionally as the weather varies.

    Dig a big reservoir? Pipe water from somewhere else? Desalinate? I believe they were working to get a few new desalination plants up and running. Not sure how much they can meet need.

    • TheLastDemocrat ==> They will have to increase supply to meet increased demand — how they do it, I don’t know. Nuclear power plant using excess heat run desal plant? More reservoirs?

      What they can’t do is keep adding more people and agriculture — demand — without adding supply.

      • Ya know, seems to me US Navy is preparing to retire another Aircraft Carrier, which would have a very large desal capability. Perhaps it could be permanently moored in LA, pipe the fresh water output to the city and convert large ares of the ship to house the homeless, plus medical facility already aboard. Would certainly be smarter than simply scrapping it, so clearly an idea that will not only be rejected out of hand but also ridiculed by the left.

        • 2hotel9 ==> The re-use of retired naval vessels is a good idea. The devil is always in the details. Boats and Ships are very expensive to maintain for any use whatever — but it may be practical for multi-use purposes — maybe a Veterans Hospital and other things.

          • Involving VA is always a bad idea. It is infested with military hating, anti-America f**kbags. They took their swipe at killing me in the 1990s, never again. F**k VA, f**king c*cksuckers. I have watched them purposely drive too many good men to suicide over their f**king sh*t. Don’t get me started on the f**king VA.

          • VA is one point that sets me off. When any group actively tries to kill me I am never polite about them, period. I will admit reforms have been pushed on them, which they fight tooth&nail, and improvements are slowly being forced on them. That said I will never enter a VA building nor interact with any VA personnel. Ever. Period.

        • The maintenance costs on a 40-50 year old carrier, just to keep it afloat – not to mention an operational nuclear PWR would be enormous I imagine. While I do believe nuclear power with adjacent seawater desal plants is an idea that makes a lot of sense, I don’t see the use of retired/dated CVNs, SSNs, or SSBNs being feasible for that purpose.

          • Chuck, Cali has a massive problem, any solution will help. They have no trouble pissing away gigantic amounts of money on failing “solutions” which are making the problems they have created even worse. Maintaining a vessel in a permanent mooring would cost far less than what they are doing now. Look at what they threw away on the bullet train to nowhere, that could have been used to build desal plants in multiple locations and actually help the citizens of Cali.

          • 2hotel9 ==> The city of Santa Barbara has a complete, ready to do, desal plant that is just waiting to be needed and pass the economic-common-sense barrier.

          • Really? All the news I see coming out of Cali is they need it, desperately. Or are they lying? Is there plenty of water in Cali and they simply want to rip off America with their lies? All I see is Cali has no water and people are going to start dying. Are they lying?

          • 2hotel9 ==> You make the mistake of accepting the media’s incorrect tendency to generalize. Santa Barbara, a bit north of Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast, has its own reservoirs and water supply system — and its growth is somewhat limited by geography (and the incredibly high cost of land).

            They do in fact has a de-sal plant which was finished and ready to go, constantly maintained, but not in use — until it was re-commissioned in 2017. It now produces about 3 million gallons of drinking water a day.

          • That is good to hear. Again, all I read is that Cali has no water and the end is nigh. Surely you are not intimating that journalist would lie?!?!? Heavens forfend! (and spell check is quite cross I am not letting it change that last word)

          • Chuck ==> Maintenance is a huge issue — I have lived on boats and ships for half my adult life — and much of that has involved dry docks and boat yards….LOL…and a heck of a lot of money.

            Personally, worth every penny — but I can’t speak for society at large.

            A lot of maintenance would be saved if the dragged the ship ashore…..

          • Hi Kip,

            I was an electricians mate on the destroyer USS Berkeley, DDG-15, from 1979 to 1983. Commissioned in 1962, she was of the last class of fuel oil burning steam plant DDs in the Navy, obviously not a Nuc. She was in the yards in Long Beach when I left, later decommissioned from serrvice and sold/transferred to the Greek Navy. She was subsequently decommed in 2002 and scrapped in 2004. 40 years of service and she was pretty much beat. Run hard and put away wet, as the cowboys say. Anyway, the older ships require a LOT of maintenance just to keep them afloat.

          • Chuck ==> Yeah, my ride for much of my youth as originally a passenger ferry built by Harland and Wolff at Belfast for the Burns and Laird Lines, launched on 11 March 1936 — used in the Med by the allies during WWII. Giant twin diesels burning the crudest bunker oil we could buy. She was a beauty in the first-class passgenger decks, where officers (such as my wife and I) were berthed.

            Cost a fortune to keep on the right side of the ocean surface.

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