The national highway system built by the Eisenhower administration provides a blueprint on how to deal with water issues related to climate change.
While watching the news this week regarding the wildfires raging in California, I thought about a story I saw the other night about a thousand-year rainfall event that took out the entire main street of Ellicott City, Maryland. An idea came to me like a bolt from the blue!
Back in the early 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower transformed transportation in this country by building a national highway system. It put people to work and gave us mobility we had never experienced before. We can apply that same kind of thinking to our current climate woes.
Some places, like California and the American southwest are experiencing serious drought conditions. In other places, flooding decimates large swaths of land and sometimes even entire towns, leaving thousands homeless.
Why not build a national water distribution system? We have the technology. Already, as indicated by the map below, we have pipelines throughout the nation delivering oil, natural gas and products like gasoline, propane and ethylene. Along the way, there are storage facilities. The same system of distribution can be built for water. In areas that are prone to flooding, overflow systems have to be built anyway to avoid street flooding. That can be expanded upon and the overflow directed into the pipeline. Along the way, there would be holding tanks and reservoirs to contain excess water collected during events like the one that flooded Ellicott City. There has been recent flooding in West Virginia that devastated huge parts of the state. We all remember the destruction wrought during Hurricane Sandy. Even drought stricken Texas was the victim of horrific flooding that destroyed property and took lives. Building drainage systems that feed into a pipeline system would have the effect of lessening and perhaps even completely negating flood damage, depending on the intensity of the event. That water can then be directed to the parts of the country where water is desperately needed.
The millions of jobs created would cover the expense, thus providing a huge boost to the economy. In the long run, it would save billions in property damage, possibly save lives, and keep insurance costs down.
Some still deny the reality of the climate crisis we are facing and dismiss as cyclical the increasing incidence of severe weather that is the direct result of our rapidly changing global climate. The fact is, climate change is real; and it is here and affecting all of us in some way or another right now.
There are those who get angry if you say climate change offers great opportunities. They get really pissed off when a mounting catastrophe is billed as an opportunity. Why not embrace those opportunities? Why not take those lemons and make lemonade?
Moving towards alternative energy is creating millions of good paying jobs while helping to combat the effects of climate change. In the same vein, tackling the problem of water, whether it is too much or too little, offers an opportunity to put people to work on jobs that can’t be outsourced, while mitigating the effects of climate change. The water we need is literally falling from the sky. We just have to capture it.
It’s a win-win. All we need is the will to take a cue from President Eisenhower and think big and bold.
Ann Werner is the author of thrillers and other things.
Visit her at Ann Werner on the Web