Water Headache

Brian L. Frank | The New Yorker
Lake Mead, Brian L. Frank | The New Yorker

There’s been a lot of good ink devoted lately to the subject of the drought and water crisis in the West. I’ve posted several links and articles in months past, especially by Brandon Loomis at the Republic.

I just read a really good new piece by David Owen in The New Yorker that made my head hurt. It’s a long read, but one we should all undertake in order to understand the bad situation in which we are already, ahem, “immersed.” It doesn’t matter whether you believe in man-made climate change, we are in big trouble…even if we were to stop growth in the West tomorrow.

Among Owen’s astute observations:

Even more efficient agricultural practices lead to problems, because runoff due to less efficient methods of the past helped recharge groundwater and surface water.

And, quoting NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti,

“One thing you see from the figures is that, between the end of 2004 and the end of 2013, the Colorado River basin lost fifty cubic kilometres of groundwater. That’s almost two Lake Meads. Everyone is very focused on the bathtub ring and the dropping of the lake, but the rate of disappearance of groundwater is six or seven times greater.”

Groundwater is our water savings account, in essence a “non-rainy day fund.” When it’s gone, we are totally dependent on rainwater, snowmelt, and river flows, all of which have not been very dependable for the last decade.

Here’s a link to Owen’s article in the New Yorker.

Thanks to Desert Magazine for posting the link to this article on their Facebook feed.

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3 Comments

  1. From the article – The river has been “over-allocated” since the states in its drainage basin first began to divide the water among themselves, nearly a century ago, and scientists expect climate change to strain it further, in part by reducing precipitation in the mountains that feed it.

    So for roughly 100 years, everyone has played dumb to this issue? Science marched on and found out that the original allocations were set when it was one of the wettest years, yet NOBODY tried to fix the allocation issue?

    Conservation can work, so can NOT overbuilding in these states. Tell me why Scottsdale (the smallest unit of government we have) continues to approve more building when there is a water crisis?

    Build over Nature, put more people who use more water and say everything is fine? That is ultra short term thinking. STOP THE DEVELOPMENT. Look this is a great example – If you have a fish tank and put too many fish in it what happens? They overload the natural balance a fish tank has and they all die.

    Yes that is the nitrogen cycle of an aquarium I am comparing to the loss of water for our cities. Both result in the same thing – Too many bodies result in death.

    But hey it is just water right? Money is more important right? What is wrong with running out of water?

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