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PLATFORM : How to Slake Our Parched State's Thirst--It's in the Stars

June 26, 1994|PETER H. GLEICK | PETER H. GLEICK directs the global environment program of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security in Oakland. He has a sunny outlook on California's water problems :

Californians have agonized for decades over the state's long-term water problems: How can we satisfy ever growing demands for water in a region as dry as ours?

What a tremendous sense of relief, then, to hear that the solution has been discovered: On June 2, astronomers from the radio astronomy laboratory of UC Berkeley announced that they had discovered the existence of water in Markarian 1, a galaxy 200 million light years away, ironically in the constellation Pisces, or fish. This discovery should end once and for all those endless arguments Californians have had about limiting our population growth, halting immigration, constraining our agricultural production or reducing our inefficient uses of water. We can simply continue to import it from farther and farther away as we use up or contaminate our modest resources here. Indeed, the fact that astronomers have been able to see water so far from Earth suggests that there must be a lot of it out there--certainly enough for any future needs.

And while Markarian 1 may be kind of far away, our water engineers can surely design a way to get it here. Oh, it may take a while to get the celestial aqueduct operating--after all, 200 million light years away isn't around the corner--but that will give us plenty of time to tow all the icebergs, drain Alaska and Canada and desalinate the oceans.

I just hope we won't have to file an environmental-impact statement.

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