Peak water becoming a reality?

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Water has been a pretty big story the last few days. For starters, there’s this article up in Julia‘s rag:

“We need to get on a sustainable footing as a society and not expect more out of the river than it’s able to deliver,” Harris, a raft guide in Pilar who also runs the nonprofit Rio Grande Restoration, says.

But if the state’s cities and suburbs continue to grow without restraint–demanding all the more water each year–the state is in for trouble, Harris and others believe. Long-term effects will include economic hardship for the state, a lowered quality of life for residents, reduced biological diversity and, without irrigable land left along the rivers, a lack of food security. “We have to confront this,” Harris says, “because no matter what anyone thinks, by deferring a decision, you’re making a decision.”

The clock is definitely ticking.

There’s more over at the Christian Science Monitor:

According to the latest scientific evidence, such dry spells are likely to grow more severe –A as they will around the world. Global warming, climate scientists say, is changing climates from the Himalayan Mountains to the Euphrates-Tigris River Basin. Patterns of rain and snowfall are shifting significantly.

The question now becomes: How will nations and individuals adapt as Earth’s climate warms? Glaciers from the Andes to the Alps are shrinking at an accelerating pace. Countries are already haggling over river rights. From 400 million to as many as 3.2 billion people face serious water shortages over the next 20 to 50 years. New Mexico, an already dry region that is getting drier, is on the front lines.

Mr. Armijo, a snow surveyor for the US Department of Agriculture, knows something is going on. Like much of the American West, the state has been in the grip of drought for years.

“We’ve set record lows for snowpack a couple of times in the last five or six years,” he says. “For the most part, the snowpack’s gone. In the last three to four weeks, we’ve experienced some really warm temperatures.”

The NY Times also hit on the issue yesterday:

The scramble for water is driven by the realities of population growth, political pressure and the hard truth that the Colorado River, a 1,400-mile-long silver thread of snowmelt and a lifeline for more than 20 million people in seven states, is providing much less water than it had.

According to some long-term projections, the mountain snows that feed the Colorado River will melt faster and evaporate in greater amounts with rising global temperatures, providing stress to the waterway even without drought. This year, the spring runoff is expected to be about half its long-term average. In only one year of the last seven, 2005, has the runoff been above average.

Everywhere in the West, along the Colorado and other rivers, as officials search for water to fill current and future needs, tempers are flaring among competing water users, old rivalries are hardening and some states are waging legal fights.

Conventional wisdom is solidifying: we’re going to face continued hardships in meeting our water needs in the future, especially as the effects of global warming increase. That makes fights over, say, the Gila River, that much more important.

Hat tip to Headwaters News for the links.

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