Monday, November 26, 2007

Water Wars - Right Next Door

George w. Bush might not get global warming, just yet, but he will when his beloved ranch in Crawford, Texas, turns into a sand dune.

I've been following the southeastern US drought for a while but didn't pay an awful lot of attention to the greater picture, at least not beyond the California wild fires. It didn't take much looking, however, to learn of a climate change that's already happened, the permanent drought in the US southwest.
Down that way it's become accepted that megadrought has arrived. It's been going on for 11-years already in Arizona and most other parts of the region aren't any better off.

"Being in the desert is unnatural," said senior researcher and geophysicist Richard Seager of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Institute at Columbia University. "The whole Southwest is dependent on massive works of engineering, all of which were built assuming there would be more water available than there really is. How is that whole system going to stand up to this kind of stress? Who gets the water?"

Five of America's ten fastest growing states are in the drought area: Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas.

The region is just beginning to see the start of water wars, in this case mainly non-violent disputes over who gets how much water for what. How much for the urban dwellers, how much for cattle, how much for cotton? The debate can get pretty furious.

Traditional reservoirs, such as Lake Powell (above) and Lake Mead (below) are already down by half and expected to empty before long.

Some of the region's cotton farmers are planning to give up on their crops and get rich selling their water quotas to city dwellers. Developers in some states are trying to access aquifers in neighbouring states. Naturally, folks are getting tempermental.
So, what's the answer? There's talk about desalination plants on the California coast but that's expected to take upwards of three decades to come online. In the meantime? That's unknown right now but, if you're looking for that retirement condo in Phoenix, you might want to wait a few years before diving into the pool.

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