Water is the new oil

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From Headwaters News I see this story at the Washington Post about water wars in the West. There’s a lot of great stuff here, especially on the role of farmers and ranchers in what happens to water:

In some cases, such as Big Sky’s Poorman Creek, compromise turned out to be easy. Montana rancher Eddie Grantier, who raises 100 head of cattle on the ranch his parents founded, conceded that the ranch had wasted water for years, ultimately drying up a tributary of the Blackfoot River used by vulnerable bull and cutthroat trout swimming upstream to spawn.

After officials from the advocacy group Trout Unlimited raised $110,000 to install a sprinkler irrigation system, pump and pipeline, and a screen to keep fish from getting trapped in the intake pipes, Grantier threw in $20,000 worth of his own work to conserve water.

Oh, if only things worked out this well all over the region. Alas, no, and it seems as though states and municipalities will become increasingly desperate for water in the coming decades. Yet the same people keep saying the same things: drought is only temporary, technology will continue to help conserve more and more water, blah blah blah.

Also via Headwaters, the Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting about a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plan to build a reservoir on the Colorado River, near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Yeah, another dam!

With all the problems that come with dams, you would think we’d stop building them. Yet, our insatiable thirst for water (like our thirst for oil) causes us to be ignorant of long-term problems. So, we don’t think about long-term solutions.

Without getting into peak oil theory, I’ll say that there is one interesting parallel: we’re not going to suddenly come up with vast amounts of fresh water, which will magically appear. Instead, we need to develop a radical change in lifestyle. An end to drought conditions in the West will only put off the inevitable: growth is going to continue, demand for water will keep rising, and people will still expect a swimming pool in their backyard when they build their homes in Phoenix.

John Fleck has links for tracking drought conditions in New Mexico, and for the state Environment Department report on Climate Change.

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