VOL. 10 | NO. 8 | Saturday, February 18, 2017
The Memphis News Editorial
Editorial: The Water Beneath Our Feet
Maybe we haven’t taken our water supply for granted. Let’s start with that optimistic premise. But we certainly haven’t taken the steps necessary given technological advances in recent decades to find out more about it, including where it is vulnerable to contaminated groundwater.
At the least we should have a better idea of what will happen when someone drills through the clay layer that separates us from the water source in the aquifer before they start drilling.
We have the ability to do that now with current technology for what is a relatively small amount of money as such government functions go.
Less than $1 million annually for five years would give us a more current map of the entire county, according to Brian Waldron of the University of Memphis Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research – make that $250,000 over two or three years just to do the work in southwest Memphis.
And we have the need to do this specifically in southwest Memphis, the sight of several of the city’s biggest economic development gains – Electrolux and Mitsubishi.
There are places in this part of the city where there are documented breaches or holes in the clay barrier and the nearby Mississippi River is also a factor in possible groundwater contamination.
The Tennessee Valley Authority followed the rules in deciding to switch from using wastewater to well water from the aquifer to cool the engines of its new natural gas-fired power plant currently under construction in southwest Memphis.
But the rules, such as they are, weren’t adequate to vet legitimate concerns – at the least offer some assurances about a resource that is fundamental to the ongoing existence and prosperity of Memphis.
Since the original rules were put in place, we know things about the environment and our water supply that we didn’t when the rules were made. And what we know now should be taken into consideration and put to use to find out what we don’t know about what’s beneath our feet. TVA’s switch from a coal-fired power plant to a natural gas-fired plant with bio-gas as part of the mix is a good thing in several ways – environmentally and economically given the nearly $1 billion investment.
The issue isn’t the quantity of water to be used – several million gallons of water a day. The amount is less than the approximately 5 million gallons of water a day Cargill operations were using before Cargill closed up shop in southwest Memphis.
That gives you an idea of how vast the aquifer’s resources are and how valuable they are as well.
What we need now is a way to get current vital information about this resource as the development above it continues to change. That includes not only what is to be built above it but what was once above it that might have leaked into the aquifer before we knew it might be hazardous to us and our water.