“Climate change is water change”

One of the points Steven Solomon’s book Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization hammered home for me is water’s importance in providing transportation routes. Here in the western United States, it’s not something I’ve had to think of too much (see rivers without water to understand the cognitive dissonance).

So I’ve been watching and trying to learn from the drought in the upper midwest, with its implications for shipping on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. I get water for farms cities and the rivers themselves for environmental purposes. Adding transportation adds an additional layer of complexity that’s fascinating. Here’s Alan Bjerga at Bloomberg:

Shippers and carriers still want Missouri River water. “There is the real chance that navigation could at best be severely impaired, and at worst effectively shut down, for an extended period of time if necessary actions are not taken immediately,” American Waterways Operators President Tom Allegretti said in a statement on Dec. 7. A closing would imperil farm exports and fertilizer shipments needed by February for U.S. spring planting, he said.

The setback for shipping interests is a shift from river- management priorities that dominated the 20th century, said Robert Kelley Schneiders, an environmental consultant at EcoInTheKnow in Boulder, Colorado, who has written books about the Missouri.

As far back as the 1800s, the barge industry has always held powerful sway over river use, he said. The current dam system itself was created to promote shipping along the lower Missouri, which has never been realized, Schneiders said.

The full article is worth reading.