While the Republicans celebrate their historical victories, the Democrats lick their wounds, the bankers count their bonus money, and the rest of us try to hold on to our jobs, homes, and retirement savings, some large US cities are facing a real challenge:
We're talking big cites: LA, Houston, Phoenix. Some are places, like Las Vegas or Tuscon, that you might expect to have water issues. Others are kind of surprising: Orlando, frex, and Atlanta.
Some -- Orlando, Tuscon, San Antonio -- are having issues because they've simply outgrown the regional groundwater supply. Others -- Atlanta, LA, Phoenix -- compete with other states and cities for limited shared resources. LA, Phoenix, and Las Vegas get much of their water from the Colorado River system, which is basically tapped out. For much of the year, the Colorado doesn't even reach the ocean anymore, the river is completely consumed over the course of its run.
Some of these cities have a few years to come up with a plan. San Antonio, frex, is likely to have demand exceeding supply by 2050. Other cities are not so lucky. Orlando is on track for demand to exceed supply in 2014. Depending on how courts rule concerning the usage of Lake Lanier, Atlanta could lose 40% of its water supply by 2012.
And it's not just the supply of water to the end user. Lake Mead is so low that the Hoover dam could stop producing electricity by 2013. And in the Colorado system in particular, it's not just a decline in water flow; a lot of reservoirs are filling with silt, reducing their utility for water storage and power generation.
It's also not just a problem for the big cities. In much of the high plains, from north Texas straight up to the Dakotas, folks get their water from the Oglalla Aquifer, which is likewise being consumed faster than it is being replenished.
In the immortal words of Scooby-Doo, "Ruh roh!".
Some of the shortages are due to drought, which may end. Or, then again, we may just be returning to normal levels of dryness after an unusally wet period during the early to mid 20th C. Or, we might be seeing the effects of climate change.
Hard to say for sure.
But net/net, a lot of major population centers, many of them in the fastest growing areas of the country, are running out of water. "Obama made me buy health insurance" might seem like a real problem, but in comparison it's peanuts.
No water is a real problem.
And not just an "I can't water my lawn" problem. A"my city can't generate electricity", or "these millions of acres can no longer be productive agricultural land" problem, or "it's going to cost me five times as much for water next year" problem.
Or, a "this city can no longer support it's population" problem.
This country and its economy has, to a great degree, been living off of infrastructure built years ago. Decades ago. It's wearing out, being used up, being overwhelmed by the increasing demand being put on it. It will take effort, and costs money - a lot of money - to rebuild.
I'm not seeing that happening. We have a reduced tax base because the FIRE sector blew the economy up, and because we've moved all of the non-tech middle class jobs offshore. It's worth a Congressperson's political life to suggest raising tax rates, on anyone, in any form, for any reason.
We do have the always-helpful Senator Inhofe threatening a Congressional investigation into "climate science fraud", but even if he uncovers convincing proof that Al Gore and the entire scientific community are complicit in an international scheme to short oil company stock, it's still not gonna make it rain.
It's time to get real and deal with this stuff.