Out of sight, out of mind is how the saying goes and it holds especially true when it comes to water restrictions and water rationing after a drought is “over”. Want proof? Spin the globe to Australia where a 10 year drought “ended” in the fall of 2010 when the Big Dry turned into the Big Wet and the near empty reservoirs began to fill to as much as 120% capacity.
During the Big Dry, parts of Australia were literally running out of water. Lakes were dry and rivers were reduced to mere trickles. The mouths of rivers became salt water marshes as there was no fresh water flow to hold the sea water back.
How could the people be sustained without water? With most of the people within a few miles of the Ocean desalination projects began to s-l-o-w-l-y spring up around the country. Desal may have its own unique set of environmental liabilities, but in times of extreme water stress they can supplement and help supply potable water, but they take years to build and are EXPENSIVE to both build and operate.
So what happens when there is plenty of water? Water restrictions are lifted and the once heralded salvation of the desal plant starts to be criticized as unneeded and a waste of money. Wow! How soon they forget.
Texas is experiencing its own version of the Big Dry. West and Central Texas is officially in a level D4 drought which is “Exceptional”. The impact to agriculture is devastating and city dwellers are also feeling the pinch. Water restrictions are in place which slows consumption, but until the rainfall consistently increases and the level of the Edwards Aquifer will continue to decrease and further water restrictions will increase. But once the rains return the water restrictions will automatically be lifted and the populace will return to their normal care free ways of water consumption.
But what happens if the drought continues for another one, two or three years. Central and Western Texans would like to have the option of a desal plant, but don’t have the luxury of an ocean to make it work. What happens in Australia when the Big Wet once again turns into another Big Dry? Will they will forget how much the desal plant cost and be thankful they have clean water to drink or will they criticize what a waste of money it was to build?