NEWS NOTES ON SUSTAINABLE WATER RESOURCES  Renewable Resources Journal and Planetary History

NEWS NOTES ON SUSTAINABLE WATER RESOURCES  Renewable Resources Journal and Planetary History  Our Fate in the Stars: How a Universe Rich in Alien Worlds Can Help UsSave Our Own.............................................................................................2Adam Frank  Crisis on the High Plains: The Loss of America’s Largest Aquifer –The Ogallala...............................................................................................14Jeremy Frankel  This issue of the journal contains two articles of interest, that differ markedly in their subjects. In the first article, Adam Frank describes in broad terms what makes life possible on our world. By considering current environmental dilemmas in a wider context— how life on earth impacts physical planetary processes, and how civilizations throughout the universe might naturally induce climate change on their planets— Frank argues that we are better positioned to solve the compelling, existential problem of climate change.  Frank describes long-term earth history, pointing out that atmospheric oxygen only occurred after algae had evolved that respired that gas and formed a familiar atmosphere. The Gaia Hypothesis is described as the idea that the planet has a self-regulating system that tends to form certain specific conditions. Although this hypothesis has in part a reputation related to “new age” ideas that may have little scientific foundation, some part of the hypothesis may be useful in analyzing the characteristics of other worlds.   This leads to the newer field of astrobiology and the examination of exo-planets. Part of this study involves the analysis of Mars and Venus, not only in their current condition but also how they may have evolved to their present states. It seems clear that life as we know it only exists within a fairly narrow band of conditions, and neither earth, Mars, or Venus could be expected to maintain these conditions over geologic time.   To assess the likelihood that such conditions could occur, Frank describes the Drake Equation, a well-know (if theoretical) framework for estimating the occurrence of worlds with life and civilizations. Such civilizations would face at some point the problem of maintaining the conditions necessary for their continuation. This means that choices would be needed that would literally determine the fate of the planetary civilization. How these choices are made would be very likely to affect what happens on earth in the future, and whether our civilization could endure.     The Ogallala Aquifer  The second article returns to the more familiar problems facing us as we utilize the water resources of this aquifer. The grain-growing region of the High Plains of America—known as America’s breadbasket—relies entirely on the Ogallala Aquifer. But long term unsustainable use of the aquifer is forcing states in the region to face the prospect of a regional economic disaster. As the High Plains states reach the verge of a major crisis, the states have taken different approaches to conservation with varying results.  The agricultural demands for Ogallala water in the region are immense, with the aquifer ultimately being responsible for thirty percent of all irrigation in the United States. Long-term use of the aquifer has lead to ground water depletion, as well as impact on surface water systems that are somehow connected with the aquifer. The results could include negative impact on municipal and industrial water demand, as well as impacts on the ecology of the region. State and Federal government have both been aware of the problems for a long time, but the actions taken have been varied. There are obvious problems of cost and political effects that can influence decisions that may be negative for the environment. Timing of events will be critical. The continuing use of the aquifer produces negative effects, while the movement to change to a more sustainable policy has been long in coming, which means that the eventual fate of the aquifer is still in question.