If Water is the ‘New Oil,’ It’s Time for Fresh Ideas (Let’s Compare the Value of One Barrel of Oil to One Barrel of Water $?)

NEWS EXPLORATION / By Awakening Staff

In our first edition, the Awakening’s Editors asked: “How Low Will the Wells Go Before the Bankers Says NO?”  This looming question centers on whether accessible fresh water supplies (especially ground water) could become so compromised that the banks might deny credit to a broad cross section of water-dependent farms and businesses, or make credit more expensive. Moody’s has now placed the availability of water in its credit-rating formula.

Humanity’s failure to place an accurate value on fresh water, particularly aquifers, presents real risks. That failure allows high water usage without considering whether nature’s water regeneration (especially aquifer regeneration) can keep pace with the ultra-high demand stemming from wasteful, antiquated fish hatcheries and huge groundwater-bottling operations like Nestle, along with widespread irrigation, especially during extended droughts. Antiquated municipal water systems are another factor. The Ogallala Aquifer in the U.S. is now half of what it was in 1930s, when the “Great Aquifer” was said to be equivalent to 9- and-1/2  Lake Erie’s.

Since our first newspaper edition appeared in the summer 2016, we’ve been asking a lot of important water questions. 

Since media outlets such as the (UoG) Guelph University student newspaper have not yet assisted Awakening News in ascertaining how many gallons of ground water is required to create one pound of farm fish in a fish hatchery, there is cause for concern, being it was the intellectual property from the UoG that created Cold Water Fisheries’ closed system, a type of system which preserves large amounts of groundwater.

The draconian open flow-thru hatcheries (water in, untreated water out) consumes on average 2,000 gallons of ground water, per minute, which is an enormous amount of ground water that’s highly polluted when it’s released back into the environment. One would also think UoG would want to participate in creating jobs for thousands of graduate students across North America  by using their intellectual property to assist for retooling fish hatcheries.

We do have some preliminary estimates: It takes hundreds  of thousands of gallons to raise one pound of fingerlings, or smolts, (3 to 4 inches in size) either released to the wild for restocking, or moved to grow-out facilities (cages) for eventual human consumption.

The scientific community is still silent on the specific amount of water needed to raise a pound of fingerlings, even though National Geographic has specified that 1,796 gallons of water are required to raise one pound of beef and 1,182 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk. Why are specifics so lacking when it comes to fish?

At any rate, the highly neglected but far superior proven closed-loop recycling system for hatcheries uses only 10% of what an open system would use. A grade-13 student from London, Ontario, Kara Barfett, back in 2003 was given a Manning Institute Award, for creating a fish-food additive that eliminates the ammonia in fish excretions (ammonia burns the gills of fish). This means accelerated fish growth, due to warmer water, and even less draw on the aquifer.

 While open-system hatcheries consume a brisk 2,000 gallons per minute, a typical closed system may use only 200 gallons per minute. But with proper ammonia removal, the groundwater usage rate could plummet to a range of 20 to 50 gallons per minute, or lower!

Notably, flow-through hatcheries—per facility, per year—have a polluting factor of about 20,000 people from the untreated, discharged fish excretions.  There are conservatively 500 open-system government hatcheries in North America; that’s a polluting  factor comparable to the excretions of  10 million people—equal to nearly one-third of Canada’s population.

SOME VALUE ESTIMATES

Although we want to help establish a fair and objective value on water—while keeping water publicly controlled, to avoid widespread privatization—let’s value groundwater at 5 cents per gallon, for illustration. This value would mean one barrel of water has a value of $2.00.

Since open hatcheries are hammering aquifers to the tune of 2 million gallons per 24 hours, per hatchery, and again assuming there are 500 flow-through government hatcheries in North America, that would mean that each and every hatchery is using $100,000 worth of groundwater per day. That’s $50 million worth of groundwater PER DAY flowing through the 500 open hatcheries.

And based on our previous estimate that 60 million gallons a day are being drawn, mainly via fish  hatcheries, from the massive Ogallala Aquifer (underneath most of Nebraska and seven other states) that means $3 million worth of Ogallala water is being used per day, which is nearly $1.1 billion worth of water per year.

Keeping that 5 cents per-gallon value in mind, take note that Nestle’s Guelph, Ontario bottling plant is reportedly allowed to tap the region’s groundwater—at $3.71 per million liters. That’s SO CHEAP. Each liter costs Nestle 0.00000371. Remember, one cent is 0.01.

Thus, governments may have good reasons to restrict private water-bottling operations for aquifer protection and to reduce plastic-bottle pollution.

According to the National Geographic,  China’s Premier Wen Jiabio (2006) pledged a dream, to ensure every Chinese citizen is allowed to consume 18 fluid ozs. of milk per day. The Chinese Dairy Business has grown five-fold. By 2013 China’s Dairy Industry was consuming 310,000 “acre feet” of U.S. water per year.

The most productive food in the dairy business is alfalfa, which is California’s largest agricultural water user, consuming more then 5 million acre-feet of water per year, 310,000 0f which is going to the Chinese dairy industry.

What the National Geographic didn’t do was break down the approximate amount of surface water,  and  the amount pumped from the aquifers, to grow the alfalfa.

Interestingly, typical trade agreements include the cost of producing, and shipping to another country, which would  include costs such as the fuel used to transport the alfalfa. But, strangely, the cost for the water consumed to produce the alfalfa has not been identified.

SHOCKING STATS

According to scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “about 10 billion gallons of water are bottled in the U.S. annually . . . causing the creation of 50 billion plastic bottles in the U.S. every year. It takes almost 20 million barrels of oil just to make the bottles, enough to keep a million cars on the road all year, or to provide electric power to 200,000 homes.” Three quarters of the bottles are not recycled, creating multi-millions of pounds of plastic trash every year.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump is calling for an initial $1 trillion in U.S. infrastructure improvements—which should encompass water and sewage systems, not just highways and bridges. Will that include retooling fish hatcheries toward closed systems? Surely if President Trump is going to use the oil and gas in the Midwest as collateral for infrastructure projects, it would stand to reason ground water could be used in the same fashion. This of course brings us to another necessary question: “Is clean ground water worth more than surface water?”

Imagine the economic boost from employing college students and the general population in applying key innovations toward clean, efficient fish hatcheries. With growth rates in closed-system hatcheries already surpassing  the growth rate in the draconian flow-though system,  all previous records would be broken  if the food sdditives Kara Barfett researched are proven to work in a closed system.

The Awakening recently contacted Mike Arney from St. Joseph, Michigan radio station WSJM, who expressed interest in these water issues. The Chartered Financial Analysts Institute is also being invited to join the discussion. We invite input from all sectors of our society, including the banking community, churches and, of course, readers.

Our email: LTE@awakeningnews.ca