The feasibility of providing fresh water to arid regions report


Human beings have moved to some of the most inhospitable areas of the world. Some of these areas include inhospitable arid regions, often deserts; for instance, Death Valley in the United States is an incredibly arid region, and yet, there are still people who live in this region. One of the larger cities in the American southwest is Las Vegas, Nevada, which is situated entirely within an incredibly dry desert. The Sahara desert, similarly, is extremely dry, and there are many people who live in these areas.
Deserts are not particularly hospitable and are extremely difficult places to live, but the way the modern human lives is much more difficult in a desert. In the Sahara desert, Bedouins were commonly nomads, moving from oasis to oasis in the arid climate. Today, however, people are no longer as nomadic as they once were; people want to settle down and live in these inhospitable regions. Las Vegas is a perfect example of this issue: Las Vegas is in a very hot, very dry region of the United States, but it is a city that is often termed “ America’s playground,” or “ Sin City.” People do not go to Vegas to survive– they go to have a great time, and this cannot be done without significant consumption of resources. This report will discuss a number of options provided to city planners in areas that are very arid and dry, and attempt to determine the best possible option for the region.

Presentation of Options

There are a number of options available when it comes to transporting water into arid regions. Some are more applicable than others; it depends entirely on the region which option will work best. However, there are certainly overall rules that should be considered when planning a solution to the problem of water shortages in arid regions. There are three options that are generally considered: groundwater pumping, pipeline transportation, and damming. Each of these options has benefits and consequences to implementation that must be considered.

Presentation of Requirements

Groundwater and damming are interesting options because they are only applicable in certain places (Mugabe et al., 2003). Some locations are not good for damming; damming is a good option when there is running water close by that can be utilized by the community or city. Sometimes this is just not an option– either the water is too far, or it is not good for damming. Groundwater is similar. Sometimes groundwater is an excellent option, but other times the technology is not good enough to drill deeply enough to extract enough groundwater for use (Kaplan 2010 p80). Finally, groundwater also has an extremely low water quality when it is extracted, meaning that there often needs to be excessive treatment of the water before it is good for human use (Kaplan 2010 p80). Pipelines can be good options as well, but they require a lot of manpower to create and often require pumping water in from many hundreds of miles away.

Comparison of Options

– Dam
Dams are often considered a good option when the circumstances are right for them, but they can also be problematic, because they are extremely costly. For poor and rural communities, the cost of a dam is often too high for the community, meaning that the community cannot pay the required amount to create the dam. A perfect example of this is the Three Gorges dam in China; it was extremely costly to create and it was very problematic for the surrounding communities, sometimes causing flooding (Guardian 2009). The Hoover dam is probably one of the most famous examples of dams that provide power and water to arid regions; most of southern California’s inland empire gets water from the Hoover dam.
The technology needed for a dam is high tech and large scale. It requires moving huge amounts of resources and people, often through inhospitable terrain and dangerous weather conditions (Guardian 2009). The technology for dams is complex, so they require skilled labor for creation. On the other hand, the water that is procured from a dam is very high quality, and the dam often has the benefit of also providing electricity to the community (Thames Water 2007).
– Groundwater pumping
The cost of groundwater pumping is significantly lower than the cost of building a dam. The technology needed to pump groundwater is significantly less in-depth, and is much easier to procure (Practical Action 2010). In addition, there are fewer experts needed when pumping groundwater, because groundwater pumping does not have the huge infrastructure requirements that building a dam does (Practical Action 2010).
There are, however, downsides to pumping groundwater. The water may be brackish or tainted by industrial chemicals; water quality from groundwater pumping may be extremely poor (unep. org 2006). An excellent example of the poor groundwater quality is the existence of nitrates in the groundwater in Africa from extensive mining of minerals(unep. org 2006).
– Pipelining
Pipelines can be problematic, because they have huge infrastructure requirements. Depending on how remote the locale is, water may need to be pumped from many hundreds of miles away– and all the infrastructure for that pipeline must be built. This takes resources and skilled labor. However, the water quality from a pipeline is good– better than groundwater quality– and may still be a cheaper alternative to damming. There are geopolitical weaknesses in pipelining, however; location of pipeline could be problematic, as it may need to bring water through disputed territory/regions like Palestine (Zeitoun 2005)


No matter the solution, there are difficulties associated with providing water to arid regions. The quality of the water provided is as big a problem as providing the water itself; in addition, many eventualities must be considered, including the geopolitical issues of the area that needs water. All of these issues must be considered before a recommendation for action can be provided for the region in question.

Recommendation for Action

The recommendation in this case is damming if at all possible, because damming provides the most high quality water with the most reliability. It is also the most expensive option, and requires certain geological features that may or may not be present. It is only recommended for governments with lots of money and power. Groundwater pumping is cheaper and smaller scale, but it is not sustainable or renewable, and therefore cannot be recommended, especially because of the pollution factor. Alternatives like sand dams should be considered to groundwater pumping. Finally, pipelining is a good option when geopolitical factors are taken into account.


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