We should take a cue from NASA

By Jim Lee

Last week I got into the water issue and how we need new ideas to go along with the ideas already on the table. I suggested brainstorming, coming up with as many concepts as possible without thinking about whether they’re good or bad, smart or dumb.
Of course a lot of ridiculous, even harebrained schemes will result. On the other hand, if we dream up enough possibilities, maybe some of them will turn out to be pretty good ideas. Besides, what have we got to lose by trying?
The biggest reasons we are running out of water is overuse and the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer. About 174,000 square miles of it lies under our feet. It has been here about 10,000 years.
Portales sits over the southwestern edge of the Ogallala. It underlies just about the entire state of Nebraska. Much smaller areas of seven other states lie over this huge aquifer system (one of the largest on our planet): south central South Dakota, southeastern Wyoming, the eastern edge of Colorado and New Mexico, western Kansas, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma.
New Mexico and Texas are depleting what’s left under them at an alarming rate. According to the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District, about 95 percent of the water taken from the aquifer is for irrigation, and the High Plains amounts to 65 percent of the irrigated acreage in the United States.
Simply stated, more water goes out than goes in. We need to do something about it, and sooner rather than later.
So, here’s the first of what I hope to be many brainstorming sessions. Some of what I say may make sense, some it just harebrained. I am certainly no hydro geologist (I’m not sure I can even pronounce the term), but I care enough to toss out some ideas.
Good or bad, they can be a start, maybe even prime the pump for folks a lot smarter than I am.
I know spacecraft recycle and purify waste water, and the result is cleaner water than we get from a faucet at home. Why not install a similar unit at residences and places of business? The initial cost of installing the equipment may be saved in the lowered cost of water since we use it over and over.
How about huge cisterns capturing precipitation instead of leaving it to evaporation and runoff?
The state recently decreed people can use “gray” water for washing machines and yards. If suitable for yards, it seems suitable for irrigation (where most of the water goes) and could be saved and collected for that purpose.
Water from the Gulf of Mexico could be used for irrigation. We don’t even need pumps. We can put big pipes underground angled slightly downward to use gravity instead of pumps. Correctly spaced filters can collect salt from the water so it is fresh enough to water crops. Cleaning the filters will provide salt for deicing highways and sidewalks, and wherever else rock salt is used. Sale of the salt may help pay for the construction of the pipeline. So will cheaply irrigated crops with yields much higher than dryland farming.
I hope some of this makes sense or will get more knowledgeable people thinking of solutions instead of blaming others for problems. OK, so I come up with harebrained notions, but maybe this will get the concept ball rolling. After all, crazy ideas are better than no ideas, right?

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: