Joseph Rossillon - Givens and Possibilities About Water in the '80s: Why We Should Be Concerned

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Dr. Joe Rossillion, of the Freshwater Biological Research Foundation, speaking at two-day conference discussing the future of water. Conference was sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the Water Awareness Consortium. Rossillion address was titled "Givens and Possibilities About Water in the '80s: Why We Should Be Concerned.”

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What I want to point out is that the only constant is change. The universe is changing constantly and everything must change with it anything that does not change becomes extinct or at least antique. And I think it's perhaps time for us to change our concepts are mine since about water. I don't suggest that they're obsolete yet, but they certainly are Antiquated when I was in graduate school. We had a professor one-time discuss with us the what he called the four basic truths and the four basic truth turned out to be truth with a capital T and A truth with a capital T and quotes and then they truth with a small tea and a truth with a small tea in quotes and what he was really talking about where facts real and perceived and attitudes towards those facts real and proceed. And that's really what we're dealing with primarily when we look at it with an historico perspective on water policy and water use in the United States. It's time for us to look at some of those perceptions and test them to see if they are really as accurate as they always as we always thought they were We used to believe that the water was an unlimited resource and there's always more where that came from. And now we're beginning to accept the fact and realise or realize and accept the fact that water is a totality it always has been there and always will be there. There isn't any new stuff. We're using the same stuff over and over again. My favorite expression that everybody gets tired of but me is that the water used in our coffee this morning was once in Cleopatra's bathtub. The reason I enjoy that so much as the concert just too late to hell out of me. That all of the available usable freshwater is less than 1% and comes to about 2,000 gallon per day for man woman and child in the world. And that today in the United States are in all industrialized countries were averaging our every juice is about 1800 gallon per day for man woman and child and it's estimated that by 1985. We will be using 2500 gallon per man woman and child. Makes it obvious very quickly that we're going to have to start using it differently. We are going to have to invent some new stuff. Steal somebody else's or reuse it. And although inventing new stuff is the Panacea that we always think of an industrialized Society. That's not as easy as it seems to be. Stealing from somebody else is always the quickest alternative but usually starts Wars. We had a lot of discussion about that last night especially was Steve honest. And so maybe the time has come for us to clearly. Evaluate the potentiality of recycling our water now. There's a little bit of the concept of a closed loop system. That's number one perspective. Do we have to re-evaluate Point number two is That water is clean. Pure all water under the ground is pure and safe to use. It's pristine all of those things water is a sewer water is Mother Nature sewer always has been always will be water is the universal solvent that everything in nature eventually ends up in water is dr. Hansen said last night then biologically breaks down to gas if the system is working and we it's time for us to begin to think of our water just like we think of a septic tank when that septic tank is in Balance doing what it does. Everybody is if not happy at least satisfied they become dissatisfied when the septic tank gets out of balance because it either causes problems to the neighbors or smells bad recreates disease Mother Nature's water does the same thing it's time for us to realize that basic element and work to maintain that balance. The point the third thing is that there's plenty where that comes from and there's enough for everybody and it's time for us to accept the reality that are use exceeds the normal system in water Mother Nature does a fine job if she can keep it in Balance, but are used now exceeds that normal balance population centers like Minneapolis-Saint Paul for example overload the system. And it takes Mother Nature all the way in the Mississippi River all the way down to Winona to get back to the same levels of particulate matter in the water that you had up north at the Grand Rapids. Which is not as good as it was where it started do it means when it leaves the state. It's not in the same condition. It was when it started up at Itasca. And if you assume that you have a decrease in each state the law of diminishing returns leaves a hell of a responsibility and some difficulty in New Orleans. In fact, the the difficulty in water quality and New Orleans is probably the reason why they have Bourbon Street. Although that's I don't have any proof for that. As long as we have overloads population overload, you're going to have pocket problems that need to be resolved second problem of exceeding toxics those things that we add to the water that are not natural that changed the balance for the mother nature doesn't know how to deal with her. The bugs can't manage or they kill the bugs and take the bugs out of balance. And if they are a cumulus those things that don't degrade then they just lay there and continue the problem over a. Of time. 1/3 problem that exceeds normal balances he degree to which we pump the water up out of the ground. Hey, hi operation pumping system, whether it's very municipality or an irrigation system or what pumps to a higher higher level than the water seeping in from rain. If this is continue without some kind of relief you drop the water table places in the San Joaquin Valley where the ground is dropped 30 feet. And the fourth problem that the seating normal system is redistribution. Every time we redistribute water something happens. it may be good, but it may also have a negative effect and we really haven't spent the time in the past looking at the impact that's going to have when we bypass the sacramento-san Joaquin Valley bring all the water down from Northern California to southern part or whether we bypass convert all of the Colorado River and move it to assist the southwestern States forever positive factor this a negative factor and these need to be evaluated. All of these things that I referred to are not necessarily bad. The important thing is to understand when the imbalances occur and how to maintain or re-establish that balance. Another misconception, we've always thought is this water is mine. It's under Mile and it runs through my property. We're just now beginning to accept the concept but there is no such thing as private water as long as things like acidity in the atmosphere affect. Everybody's water as long as somebody has some need for the water down blow. It has some prior rights there really is no such thing. I suppose the only private water you have is that what you got inside you? And the minute you go in the other room you not make it public water again and its public responsibility. And we're going to have to re-evaluate the whole question of riparian Rights prior rights licensing and everything else and I think philosophically the final thing that we're going to have to look at and changing our mindset about water is the old concept what I want. I need get rid of all the rest of it. Better discussion last night about West Texas and I remember with Amusement when I was down in Houston visiting with some folks and I had two people sitting at my table one of them from Houston who was complaining about the fact that Euston is used to be once every 6 to 10 years Houston would have as minor Flood now because it's dropping because the flow has changed every year. They have a major flood in Houston. And this person said we got to do something we got to get that water out of here. At the same time there was a lady from West Texas sitting at the same table who was saying, you know, we really got a problem in West Texas. We don't have near enough water to reduce the stuff that we need to produce. When do you think it'll be possible to dig that ditch up to Canada and get that Canadian water? And I said somehow I got a feeling it's a tide is going to go over like a pregnant pole-vaulter with Canadians. And I don't think they're that sympathetic about West Texas and yet here these two folks with two completely different problem and didn't realize they were talking about the same water the same question. If you got a problem with water in Houston, Texas instead of going all the way to Canada. So we've got to change our minds about let's get rid of it water that an excess of water isn't necessarily bad. Maybe it's maybe it's a storage What I was supposed to talk about today, we're giving some possibilities. What are some of the Grievances I see them for the 80s? First of all, we're going to need more water. That means if we use more we're going to Mother Nature's going to have less time to clean itself, which means we're going to have to help we're either going to lower our quality of water to help Mother Nature clean it up. Secondly, if we need more water, we're going to start causing more and more little Wars. little disagreement The governor of Wyoming that says about the people in Omaha needing water Over My Dead Body. Those kind of things are going to keep arising the question of what happens in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. If we have a drought and we decide that we need more water and Northern Minnesota has it all do we just go get one other thing one other given I think on the question of meeting more water is someone once said of for every difficult question, there's an easy answer and it's always wrong and I'm sure we'll pick a whole bunch of those. In an effort to quickly resolve the problems. other given for the 1980s I think you can assume that new quantities of contaminants will occur. And those contaminants will either be biological overloads as a result of the overloading of our sewage system sewage treatment plants, which will increase the level of not only organic material but chemicals. Nutrients into the water or we're going to see and a greater accumulative chemicals cropping up not necessarily because they're being dumped but because they're starting to to solidify and stratify and places and they become more obvious Great Lakes are an example of that. We had a nice seminar 3 years ago from dr. Richard Thomas for the center of inland waterways in in Canada, and he was talking about where all of the chemicals and metals. We're compiling packing up in the great white following the the water flows through the lakes that are at this is starting to build up here in the pcbs are building up here in the Mercury's building up over here in Erie or in St. Clair. And he said as a result, you're going to find over the next five or ten years and increase level of these materials in the fish which even make may make it prohibitive to eat those fish. Now all of a sudden we're trying to see the information the newspaper that says boys are seeing increased levels of those materials and fish in the Great Lakes and what the hell's happening, we're going we don't get this stop. It's just building up the level that we see it and we'll find more and more of those. As as the deckers. another given for the 80s Is the concept of potable water I think everyone in this room agrees with the concept everyone is entitled to potable water everyone you go any place to say that everybody knows this. Everyone's entitled potable water. And yet in the world today is 70% of the people do not have water that meets EPA acceptable standards minimal standards Doctor Drew said last night someplace have as many as seven hundred chemicals in their water and he was talking about maybe one of the Necessities we would have would be if you can't lower the level of of nitrogen in the water. You just have to say don't feed the nitrogen. Don't feed that water to babies use other water. That truly test the concept of everybody and title of potable water. And noticed when I say everybody's entitled to potable water. I didn't say all water should be potable. One of the problems with the 208 water quality act and said buy 1983 or 85 or something. All Waters. The United States should be physical and swimmable. Is that probably they never were And I don't think we can ever do it. And so it makes it an impossible task. I think we might be better to take the charge all water should be usable and spend some time to finding what usable is and then establish standards for different uses as long as we have a whole bunch of people. We're going to be in Conflict on those two factors and we have to make allowance for that conflict lies were guaranteed to fail. The fact that everybody is entitled to potable water is also going to enhance the redistribution problem. As some people run out of but you're going to have to move it from someplace else. And of course the real question in the long run is going to be the whole question of cost risk. That's what dr. Deroos was talking about. When he said maybe you decide that the the other alternative is not to clean up the water but cannot use it. Those are they given for the eighties. What are some of the possibilities? If we don't change I think you'll see more and more potential quote Love. Canal is cropping up right now almost every state in the Union has some kind of Love Canal or other depending upon how great or how to what greater or lesser degree. You define that major problem underground toxicity underground contaminants. If we don't change I think our water wars are going to increase their inevitable. Are old standards are no longer applicable. And they're going to create natural confrontation. If we don't change our techniques we're going to see more and more salt overloading or ground sinkage. I just recently added at a seminar. I was a door a workshop. Someone made the comment that in the state of Minnesota in the next decade 75% of our Municipal sewage plants sewage treatment plants are going to become obsolete. And I can't believe that Minnesota is the only state in the nation to have that occurring. He went on to point out that it was really nothing we can do about it. We don't have the the money to deal with that at the time. That's one of the things we're going to have to address. If we do change what's going to happen, well, one of the advantages I to me one of the advantages of the whole running astronauts up into space is the concept change that occurred based upon the premise. There's more where that came from. Those astronauts got into a rocket went up into space for the first time man was put in the position. Where as far as water was concerned. There wasn't more where that came from. They had to use what they had and they had to use that and that alone keep it maintained the quantity that kept them alive and healthy and they brought that concept back down with them. And I think we'll see more and more self-contained concept. There's a company out in Denver now that puts out a system where you put a you bury a 1200 gallon tank in your front yard, not your fair share. I guess the assumption is you take the office as much as you bring back home and you maintain some kind of level and you recycle it it's on it's on a computer monitoring system, which is necessary to maintain quality constantly because if it goes out a quack and you didn't know what you'd be dead before you doing I suppose. What is a different concept? And when you accept the premise that in the state like Minnesota where the northern half of the state. the whole northern half geologically is is Non-functioning to septic tank septic systems because of the sand and gravel we're going to do something different than we've been doing in the past. I think we're going to have to look at more storage systems if we do change or a little bit more story systems where industry individuals store the supply of water. They use it's not necessarily unique there a plant's Toros got a plan in California that does at the Air Force Academy takes all their sewage with their Wastewater and use that for all of their irrigation an outside water the grey water system. So they cut the the use down by 20 down to 25% We're going to have to think differently, They're made that very popular in the early seventies and we've been kicking it around ever since I think it's time for us to also modify that asked him to say there's also no such thing as the cheap lunch. Because each year from now on food is going to have to get more expensive. And I know that's just terribly unpopular. But one way or another folks we're going to pay for it in Southwest the United States where they're building a multi-billion-dollar desalination plant to take the the salt level the saline level out of water from the Colorado River because it's been reused so many times were agricultural at the level of salt is so high that it no longer can grow things. Good point if you use the water that many times that's a good point. That's a plus. But that desalination plant that cost is not converted over to food. That's the subsidy and the point is who it is going to cost us more money. Now, we can subsidize it someplace else but if we're going to maintain any kind of water quality and still try to maintain high levels of production, which I think is also not there. It's going to cost some some place along the way and we may be about time. We begin to accept that a whole bunch of other countries have had to pay a whole lot more of the United States for a whole bunch of years. And I think part of that is because of our natural effluence. Are natural a Commodities the size of a country the small population you put those all together. We've been very lucky. And the truth is just catching up with us now. And now we're going to start catching up on the European nations and everything and just like energy quadrupled or more food is going to do the same thing in the next decade to come. What we need. Is time to think about the Cleveland said last night we who are free to think because we are not saddled with ongoing responsibility. I maintain that we need to separate Water Maintenance from Creative Design because those people today who are who are committed and assigned the task of maintaining our water and our water quality have such a tremendous task on their hand. They don't have time for long range creative thinking and if it isn't the same to anybody else that doesn't get done just the ongoing day-to-day job of keeping the shop open is taking up the time. So we need some creative way to think of how we going to pass these in the future with kind of Mines. We have something not to come up. The 1970s was the energy Decker the question arose early and we're just now truly addressing it. The eighties will be the water decade and I think we need to speed up the process of addressing yet because the next big one. In the 80s and the 90s is going to be food because energy water and food are all tied together and they're going to follow just as sure as day follows night. Thank you.


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