Is Water the New Oil?

If, as some observers claim, water is the new oil, then the Great Lake State is the Promised Land.

A week ago the man who treats my lawn asked how often I water it.

“Probably not enough,” I confessed. He prescribed a 45-minute dose every week, and more when the weather gets hot.

A few days later I did as instructed. The next day it rained, mostly in the afternoon and hard. More rain fell the day after that; less vigorously, but off and on for most of the day. DetvsEverybodyTshirts

I have relatives out West with very different stories to tell about water.

A cousin who grew up on Detroit’s east side moved with her family to Houston about a year ago, and was in town recently to visit her mother. The flight back to Texas for cousin, husband and son was cancelled, however, because heavy rain caused deadly floods throughout Houston.

Another cousin lives about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, in Lancaster. As California suffers through its fourth consecutive year of draught, he and everyone else in the Golden State must have salivated over the water gushing through Houston.

Check off another reason we don’t plan on leaving Detroit.

Abundant water is not the only reason, of course. We were born here and have lived here most of our lives. We like the four seasons. Most of our immediate families are in the area. We stay, too, because our aging parents require more and more of our attention. And while gentrification is a concern, the latest edition of the Detroit renaissance may actually take hold this time.

Nevertheless, as global population grows, demand for water will grow, too, which could be problematic.

Water conflict is what “60 Minutes” found in a segment that re-aired March 31. According to a 2012 government report, “many countries important to the United States will experience water problems…that will risk instability and state failure.” The report also cited possible “…use of water as a weapon to further terrorist objectives.”

In other words, the future will witness peoples, armies and nations fighting over water, barring a radical shift in how we consume and conserve it.

Tough times due to water shortages are not confined to the other side of the world. According to The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, in an Op-Ed that ran the same day as the “60 Minutes” broadcast:

“The crisis in California is a harbinger of water scarcity in much of the world. And while we associate extravagant water use with swimming pools and verdant lawns, the biggest consumer, by far, is agriculture. In California, 80 percent of water used by humans goes to farming and ranching.”

If, as some observers claim, water is the new oil, then the Great Lake State is the Promised Land. Let’s hope we don’t have to take up arms to keep it.

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James E. Kenyon

James is the publisher and editor of Page One Post. He was a newspaper reporter in Detroit and Norfolk, VA, before working in the corporate communications departments at a number of Michigan companies. His last stint was 18 years at Chrysler Corporation, where he handled media relations, product and marketing PR and speech writing. He retired from Chrysler in 2007. He enjoys listening to jazz, good cigars and bourbon Manhattans, often at the same time. He and his partner, Melba, live in Detroit's Rosedale Park neighborhood.