Thursday, October 27, 2022

It's not just the Mississippi...


... it's riverine and inland waterway transport all over the world.

We've heard many reports in recent weeks about how barges are backed up on the Mississippi River, threatening exports of US grain, soybeans and other crops.  For a useful summation of the present situation, click over to Old NFO's blog.  He notes how current problems will affect future movements on the river, and what that implies for our economy.

However, the Mississippi is only one river.  It's emerging that major rivers all over the world are suffering the same problem, threatening the movement of agricultural produce as well as other exports.

Water Politics notes that five of the largest and most important rivers in the world are under threat.  The Indus River in Pakistan has just faced a mega flood, while the Yangtze River in China, the Colorado River here in the USA, and the Rhine and Po Rivers in Europe are suffering from droughts.  Some of them have run dry in sections.  That affects not just agriculture, but hydroelectric power generation, as well as transport of raw materials and finished products to and from factories along the rivers.  It's a very interesting summation of what's going on, and I highly recommend reading it in full.

Nor are those rivers the only problem areas.  Canada's St. Lawrence Seaway, which handles the export of much of the grain harvest from that country's central provinces, is also much lower than usual, with some sections up to 10 feet below normal for this time of year.  If the trend continues, ships using the Seaway will have to carry less cargo, so that they draw less water - the same problem being faced by barges on the Mississippi.

South America isn't exempt.  The Parana River, used to carry billions of dollars of agricultural produce from Argentina and Paraguay, has been in drought conditions since last year.  Barges and ships are forced to carry less cargo, in order to get up and down the unusually shallow river.  Several major dams, generating huge amounts of hydroelectric power, are also at very low levels, threatening electricity supply.

GCaptain sums it up in an article titled "Waterways And Lakes Are Evaporating Worldwide".

From California to Germany, heatwaves and droughts have shrunk rivers that feed reservoirs. Hydroelectricity output fell by 75 terrawatt-hours in Europe this year through September — more than the annual consumption of Greece — and fell 30% across China last month. In the US, generation is expected to fall to the lowest level in six years in September and October.

It’s a cruel irony that’s forcing utilities to reconsider the traditional role of hydropower as a reliable and instant source of green energy. Dams are the world’s largest source of clean energy, yet extreme weather is making them less effective in the battle against climate change.

The cycle is “a warning signal in terms of designing power systems,” said Wenxuan Xie, a managing consultant with Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “You really have to think about the possibilities of extreme events, and that perhaps what you once thought was extreme might happen more frequently.”

. . .

Dam operators must also balance competing requirements for their water. Large dams provide irrigation for crops, water supplies for cities and navigation for ships. The primary purpose of the Three Gorges Dam, for example, was to control the annual flooding of the Yangtze that periodically devastated towns and farms downstream. This summer, as drought reduced the flow of water into the river, the dam had to hold back enough water to maintain navigation to Chongqing, central China’s largest city which is almost 2,000 kilometers from the sea.

Lake Mead, the reservoir behind the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in the Western US, provides 90% of Las Vegas’s water supply as well as feeding cities such as Los Angeles and irrigating hundreds of thousands of acres of crops.

There's more at the link.

There are those who believe that "The wars of the future will be fought over water not oil".  One begins to see their point . . .



Old NFO said...

Thanks for boosting the signal Peter, and yes, whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting... sigh... And when the econazis and reality interact over water, it WILL be interesting!

JWM said...

And yet, my brother in Thailand reports flooding, landslides, bridges out.


Peter said...

To Peter Grant, r.e. rivers drying up and water shortages. As a geologist, or more clearly, an Earth Scientist, I must say the facts are that the Earth has a water "balance". If there is a drought at one time, in one area, there is flooding in another. If sea level drops, it means water, in the form of snow and ice is accumulating somewhere else. That is how Ice Ages operate, always have, always will. Billions of years of history, recorded in the rocks, don't lie.

It is also called the "hydrologic cycle", taught in Geology 101. Water evaporates from rivers, lakes and oceans, forms clouds which move and precipitate (rain and snow) in other areas. The precipitation washes the Earth clean, carrying the pollutants and eroded rock material into the oceans, where it settles out, forms sediments, and the water is purified and returned to the clouds and the cycle continues, as it always has and always will. It is much like a global sewage system, and it is beautifully and masterfully designed.

If there are shortages in the Mississippi and other rivers, it is temporary and often human-caused by over usage for irrigation and industrial uses, as is the case with the Colorado River and Rio Grande rivers in the US, for example. The same holds true for underground water acquifers, much like the famous Ogallala Acquifer in the western U.S., it is declining because it is being used faster than it is being recharged. Once again, the problems are human interference from over-usage, not global climate change, which does happen, but very slowly, compared to for example, irrigation.

So, we either learn to live with lower water levels in rivers, or we stop using so much water. The Earth contains a finite amount of water. None escapes our atmosphere and no more is being produced from the interior of the Earth. We are not going to change or control the climate; and certainly not by not burning some fossil fuels and emitting some carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Our only choice is to modify our behaviour, kind of like going on a diet, we have to watch what and how much we eat.

Taking water from the Colorado to water lawns and golf courses in places like Las Vegas, is just plain stupid. Or taking water from the western slope in Colorado in places like the Dillon Reservoir, moving it in a tunnel (The Roberts Tunnel) under the Continental Divide, to the Front Range, to water lawns in the Denver area, is just plain stupid, as has been going on for decades.

So for people to get in a frenzy over "climate change", is also just plain stupid.

Don RN said...

Came to comment much like Peter above.
Whether changing weather patterns contribute to the issue is I think without question true; but not the only significant cause.
There is also significant impact from human development, diversion & use. No one seems willing to address those issues. Looking especially at California.

Peteforester said...

Joseph told Pharaoh to prepare during the seven years of plenty for the seven years of famine. ...This is NOTHING NEW...

Skyler the Weird said...

This happened on the Mississippi back in the eighties. It got so low it exposed shipwrecks at Memphis. They thought at first it was the Confederate fleet sunk in 1862 but turned out to be several ship sunk when the river froze over around 1910.,40%20feet%20below%20the%20top%20of%20the%20riverbank.

Feather Blade said...

"Dams are the world’s largest source of clean energy, yet extreme weather is making them less effective in the battle against climate change."

Obviously the follow on to this will be "we must therefore dynamite all the hydro dams and their attendant locks, and nevermind the consequences."

Because if it's not perfect, it has to be destroyed.

Paul said...

The current crop of screamers could not build an out house. Much less a hydro electric dam.

When will your new site be up? I think I might set this site to redirect to the new site till everyone gets their links in order.

Howard Brewi said...

Apparently low river conditions in Germany have exposed the stones that are known to show famine is coming so this has happened before. Years ago I read some articles, I think in Nature Magazine that talked about a four hundred year drought cycle in the South West. Citing tree rings etc they blamed the disappearance of the Anasazi on the cycle. There was also discussion of magnetic pole shifts which were shown by the orientation of different layers in ancient fire pits. They did mention the reduction of Indian cultures further east before the coming of European diseases. The conclusion was that the next cycle was over due! On another note China is running a program to try and shift water to the Gobi desert. Is that affecting rain elsewhere?

LL said...

The Colorado River is up in terms of water entering the system. Then users drain it, which is why Lake Mead is empty, etc. The global warming/cooling arguments don't hold with the Colorado River. I think that it's one of those case-by-case situations with major rivers.

My plea (forgive me if I sound like a broken record) is that we set up small modular reactors to desalinate seawater and augment present systems in a major way. Arizona just spent $1 billion to take saline water from an underwater lake in Mexico and desalinate it for residential use (people fleeing woke states in record numbers).

Philip Sells said...

Is there any potential in finding and harvesting water-ice comets? One thing that I get concerned about when it comes to doing things like mining asteroids is what the potential consequences of artificially adding to the mass of the earth would be. It might only be out to the eighth decimal place, but still....

clark myers said...

"There are those who believe that "The wars of the future will be fought over water not oil". One begins to see their point . . ."
Draw your attention to:
The Luckiest Man In Denv
by C.M. Kornbluth
Published January 3rd 2006 by Project Gutenberg (first published June 1952)

JaimeInTexas said...

Search for: australia outback flooding

I wonder what will the atmospheric water saturation comes winter. Water will fall from the sky, when in which form is determined by the laws of physics.

Droughts happen.
-- Nature

Hamsterman said...

The Amazon has large swings every year, from 'wet season' where it wants to flood, to 'dry season' (i.e. only rains twice a day) where barges can only run during the day.


My major concern about using comets and asteroids is, well, how they get from 'up there' to 'down here'...

JaimeInTexas said...

Adding huge amounts of mass, comet water, could cause Earth to tip over and the people to fall off into space and sucked into the Sun.
All joking aside, Earth's water is not going anywhere. It is just moving from one state into another. No need to import more - nothing would change weatherwise except shirter coastlines.