Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Supply of Water in Metropolis

Superman #692 by James Robinson and Fernando Dagnino (2009)

As is the case with most cities in the DCU, things are not going to well in Metropolis. Superman's gone, the city's new protector Mon-El has apparently been killed, and the citizens have lost their faith in superheroes. To top it off, the city's sewer system has been completely destroyed in a recent battle.

Seems like a fairly basic repair job, right? I mean bombs go off in the sewer systems of Gotham and Metropolis all the time (speaking of which, it would seem as though villains tend to love spreading poison through water supplies so you would think the cities would have learned to increase patrol of the sewers). Except, this time the bomb was "laced with encoded nanotechnology [so that] no sooner does a speedster or power ring start fixing the sewers than the nanobytes undo that reconstruction." S.T.A.R. labs, Mr. Terrific and Will Magnus (genius scientist who created the Metal Men) have been unable to do anything.

We've discussed the economic effects of something like this happening before. It's pretty basic. When an external force causes the supply of a good to decrease, price goes up. Take a look at the following detailed chart, which demonstrates this effect:

Indeed, if such destruction did occur then Metropolis would certainly be facing higher prices for water. Although, I think Robinson might be portraying too bleak a picture in this book. Yes, there would be some major hygiene issues and city residents would have to give up on showering for a while...

Yet, it seems to me that despite not having running water throughout the city, drinking water could be shipped in mass quantities from neighboring states. Given the severity of the situation, I think the government could subsidize the costs of transportation. After all, we've seen that DCU governments are not exactly the most frugal. They're willing to dish out loads of cash to fund anti-alien squads when the Justice League is a phone call away. Why not add a line item in the budget for some basic sustenance until this whole mess is straightened out?

Also, what happened to the lucrative bottled water business? I thought that people were drinking that stuff even before Metropolis's sewer system was destroyed. Unless there is only one major bottled water company, it uses "municipal sources" and not springs, and it only has one plant that happens to be located in Metropolis, I think it's a safe bet that there will be plenty of water to drink.

Really, people should not be lumbering down the streets suffering of dehydration. Moreover, Governor Klein should not have to ration the consumption of water. What's worse is that street thugs have now apparently tapped a new black market by selling small quantities at exorbitant rates. I feel like this might be an exaggeration of what would happen in this situation. There would be some discomfort, but as always in Metropolis, everything would work out.

Finally, the price of water has apparently soared to such levels that it now as a street value higher than gold. Granted, I don't know what the "street value" of gold is, but just to give you an idea of what this means, here's a chart on the current market value of gold:

reprinted from


Michael T said...

This seems like a non-issue to me. Metropolis is coastal right? Get a Green Lantern (probably John Stewart given his architectural skills) to create a huge intake pipe construct with a purifying filter. Branch off pipes to temporary reservoirs, both constructed (in the GL sense but also speedsters can throw up waterproof tanks in milliseconds all around the city). Each neighborhood then doles out fresh water as needed until the permanent fix arrives. Waste water can still presumably go in the sewage system - it may not get cleaned for re-use but it can still be taken out of the city. If not, add a return system. Once set up, GL need only return once per ring recharge to reenergize the system.

Will said...

Is Metropolis coastal? That always confused me, because it seems close to Smallville, Kansas in some stories, which means it is nowhere near a coast, but in others it seems to be coastal. I kind of assumed it was Chicago, which would mean you have one of the largest fresh water locations right nearby. Yes, it is polluted, but there are ways to clean it enough for non-drinking uses and then just get bottled water for actual drinking. Heck, I live in Philly and many people here only drink bottled water because of the taste.

ShadowBanker said...

Actually, I've always assumed Metropolis was coastal too. Gotham City is supposed to represent the bad parts of New York and Metropolis is supposed to represent the good parts of New York. Of course, this doesn't make sense in the context of the DCU, but I always sort of figured that Gotham was NYC and Metropolis was something like Boston. Though, it does seem as though even in Smallville, when discussing Metropolis they always referred to it as "The city" as if it was right nearby. Could be Chicago.

Will said...

I think Metropolis must exist in an parallel universe connected by numerous wormholes to the DC Universe. It would explain why someone could drive there easily from Smallville or from Gotham (which is clearly in the NE, since it has snowy winters and a harbor capable of taking on big ships).

Tom said...

I'd guess Metropolis was actually Detroit, sparkling with the promise of the future, titans of industry and culture, or, like the Detroit that could-have-been of the Robocop films, Delta City. Metropolis might also be Atlanta or Dallas. They're all "driveable" from Kansas.

ShadowBanker said...

Definitely could be. We should write DC a letter and ask them where it is in the US

K. Hamada said...

I wrote a response to this post. I tried to show the flip side to the issue of small-scale water providers. Check out our other posts if you're interested in water supply, management or governance.

RJ Moore II said...

Metropolis (in the comics) is on the Delaware seaboard.

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