Thursday, June 09, 2005

The other coming crisis...

From the Denver Post, 6/9/05:

Expert: water shortage inevitable
The Associated Press

Boulder - Water shortages in the Colorado River are almost inevitable by 2011 and could force feuding Western states to cooperate on managing the river, an expert said.

"All the states are at risk," said Jim Lochhead, former executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

"And when all parties are at risk, there is potential for a mutually beneficial (resolution)." Lochhead spoke Wednesday at a University of Colorado symposium on the river's problems.

A long drought has left Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the river's two major reservoirs, dangerously low. Abundant snow last winter will raise both reservoirs, but not enough to replace what the drought and a booming population have drained.

"We wiped out the bad year of 2004 by having a wet 2005," said Terry Fulp of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. "But there is still an impetus to get some agreement." The 1922 Colorado River Compact divides the river's water between the Upper Basin states - Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming - and the Lower Basin states - Arizona, California and Nevada. So far, the river has been able to satisfy the demand, but population growth is expected to outstrip the available water, officials said.
The Interior Department has begun writing a drought management plan for the river after the seven states failed to reach an agreement. The plan is expected to be finished by December 2007.


Warning: serious snark ahead...

This is something that's been talked about for years in that part of the country, not to mention parts of the Great Plains and even in several foreign countries. Water, like oil, is a linchpin of civilization; even more important, it's crucial to life.

The problem in the American West, in a nutshell, is not just population growth in itself, but also idiotic use of water by those already there. Let's face it, most of the area the Colorado flows though is a desert, and has been for several thousand years at least. But in the past several decades, people have thought it cool (pun intended) to bring the trees, grasses, and lawn-ornament plants from more Northerly, wetter climes to places like Phoenix.

Fly into that city (I lived there four years, 1997-2001) and you'll see an immense trellis of brilliant green from miles away surrounded by greyish-brown scrubland. That's Phoenix & suburbs, sprawl central, with the trellis being roads that run arrow-straight for miles. It looks beautiful, but it's SO wrong where it is. Instead of adapting to the environment by decorating with local plants (which are beautiful, especially in Feb. and March when the desert blooms), too many places waste tons of water to grow that fashionable but utterly useless urban monoculture -- grass.

The worst violators are the ubiquitous golf courses; the only one I can think of that's truly a desert course is one in the fringe town of Apache Junction, well away from the ritzy hotels and wealthy neighborhoods golfers are more likely to frequent. Given what one golfer said when I lived there -- that the whole point of golf is to confront nature and win -- why don't they actually DO so on Nature's own terms, challenging themselves to fish their balls out of creosote bushes, rocks, cacti small and large, and avoid rattlesnake dens just like the hikers do?

A close second are the acres of cotton and orange groves, mostly on the fringes of the valley. Neither of those plants are native here, either.

Yes, there ARE people who encourage conservation methods such as low-water landscaping, and some of the homes built that way are beautiful (and expensive). Also, the valley boasts several big parks that preserve the desert's austere beauty, where I was able to easily escape from any sight of the sprawl if I wanted to. But when you contrast that with public authorities who, after draining all but the last drop of water from the Salt River (a tributary of the Colorado), proceed to spend millions to install inflatable dams and pump water back into the riverbed to create a boating lake (Tempe Town Lake) that's only going to evaporate without further pumping, you've got to wonder if some of the people were nuts when they got there, or just became that way from the heat.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home