Water Resources Panel
November 30, 2009
by Michelle Covi
RENCI at ECU co-sponsored a water resources panel discussion on November 17, 2009, with members of the ECU Geography Department, Dr. Tom Allen, Dr. Paul Gares, Dr. Jennifer Arrigo, Dr. Scott Leece, Dr. Burrell Montz, and Dr. Holly Hapke.
The discussion started with a global overview of how water is used, stored, and distributed around the world. To illustrate the uneven distribution of the availability and use of water, world maps were shown with the sizes of countries distorted according to the magnitude of their water availability, water use, or the difference between these measures.
The principles of climate change and how it is expected to affect the patterns of water distribution and the seasonality of precipitation was also demonstrated.
Local water problems such as the pollution of rivers and streams from mining and processing gold in North Carolina brought the message home to the audience. Even though mining was not extensive, the mercury used in processing gold ore is still contaminating rivers today.
Problems of too much water are very common in urban areas of eastern North Carolina. Too much run-off in short periods of time is often due to the extent of urban development, particularly patterns of impervious surfaces. GIS can be used to map future development patterns and address some of the problems of development. Satellite remote-sensing can be used to classify impervious land cover. Advanced technologies such as LIDAR can delineate sub-watersheds so that solutions such as low-impact development, buffers, diversions, and silt fences can make a difference.
Global human rights issues of water availability were discussed and the trend toward the privatization of water resources was examined in light of the inequities in many poor countries. Some people believe a global water cartel is forming that may rival the power of oil cartels. The politics of water law in the United States was illustrated using case studies of the disputes between municipal governments such as Tennessee and Georgia, New York City and Philadelphia, and North and South Carolina.