“How low will the wells go before the bankers say NO?” This looming question centers on whether fresh-water supplies could become so compromised that the banks might deny credit to a broad cross section of farms, businesses or governments, or make credit more expensive. Credit rating agencies have begun including water as a factor for creditworthiness.
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 can keep pace with the ultra-high demand stemming from wasteful, antiquated fish hatcheries and huge groundwater-bottling operations like Nestle’s, along with widespread irrigation, especially during extended droughts.
This issue needs more media and academic attention, to obtain more details — including how many gallons of water it takes to create one pound of fish at a fish hatchery. The exact quantity is likely to be quite high, since common flow-thru hatcheries (water in, water out) use enormous amounts of water that’s often highly contaminated when it’s released back into the environment.
Some preliminary estimates are known: It takes tens of thousands of gallons to raise one pound of fingerlings, or smolts, which are 3-4 inch baby fish either released to the wild for restocking or moved to grow-out facilities.
The scientific community, meanwhile, is oddly silent on the specific amount of water needed to raise a pound of farm fish, even though National Geographic has specified that about 1,800 gallons of water are required to raise one pound of beef. Why are specifics so lacking when it comes to fish?
At any rate, the highly neglected but far superior closed-loop recycling system for hatcheries would, at bare minimum, use only 10% of what an open system would use. A 13-year-old Ontario girl, Kara Barfett, came up with a fish-food additive that eliminates the ammonia in fish excretions. This means accelerated fish growth and even less draw on the aquifer.
According to Ontario resident and former hatchery operator John Devine, the groundwater flow into open hatcheries is a brisk 2,000 gallons per minute; but a typical closed system may use only 200 gallons per minute. But with proper ammonia removal, the groundwater usage rate could plummet to 20 to 50 gallons per minute, or lower. Imagine how much that would reduce the impact on water supplies.
Notably, those flow-through hatcheries—per facility, per year — have a polluting factor of about 20,000 people from the wastewater pumped out of them (bodily waste from fish equal to the bodily excretions of 20.000 human beings) And because there conservatively are about 500 open-system government hatcheries in North America, that factor becomes 10 million people — equal to nearly one-third of Canada’s population. spread privatization—let’s place a value on groundwater at 5 cents per gallon, for illustration.
Since, as Devine noted, open hatcheries are hammering aquifers to the tune of 2 million gallons per 24 hours, per hatchery, and again assuming there are 500 open government hatcheries in North America, that would mean that each and every hatchery is using $100,000 worth of groundwater per day. That’s
While it’d be wise to keep water publicly controlled—in order to avoid $50 million worth of groundwater PER DAY flowing through the 500 open hatcheries.
Based on Devine’s rough estimate that 60 million gallons a day are being drawn 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 per year.
And, 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. 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.
Scientist Neil de Grasse Tyson said “about 10 billion gallons of water are bottled in the US annually … causing the creation of 50 billion plastic bottles in the US 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, he said, creating multi-millions of pounds of plastic trash every year.
Meanwhile, President Trump wants an initial $1 trillion in infrastructure improvements—which should encompass water and sewage systems, not just highways and bridges. Will that include retooling fish hatcheries toward closed systems?
That retooling would drastically cut water usage while thoroughly cleaning the water so the fish raised for human food, as well as the bait fish which are raised, are not languishing in their own excrement. Furthermore, imagine the economic boost from employing college students and the general population in applying key innovations toward clean, efficient fish hatcheries.
Mark Anderson is a journalist who divides his time between Texas and Michigan. Email him at email@example.com.
From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2017
Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links
About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652