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View Full Version : Water in the west: the future is drying up


Hulk
10-24-2007, 01:04 AM
If you have 30 minutes, this is a fascinating read.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/21/magazine/21water-t.html (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/21/magazine/21water-t.html)

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/10/16/magazine/21water600.1.jpg
Draining The 100-foot-high bathtub ring left by the dwindling waters of Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam.

Inukshuk
10-24-2007, 11:35 AM
I have studied quite a bit of water law and follow water issues. Its a good article and a growth industry!

corsair23
10-24-2007, 01:34 PM
Question I've always had is how much of the dwindling water in the reservoirs etc. is due to lack of moisture (snow pack, rain, etc) that you may attribute to global warming as compared to the increased usage/demand over the last 20+ years?

Keep in mind the Colorado River once went all the way to Mexico as a true river as opposed to a dried up trickle...It has been that way for how many years now? Last time I was in the Phoenix metro area you could feel the increased humidity from the amount of water being used for lawns, pools, etc. Look at Aurora and areas east...Basically it is a semi-arid desert climate yet houses are being built at a frantic pace and each house taps into the already limited water supply further. Color me suspicious that global warming is more responsible for the water levels decreasing in the reservoirs when compared to the demand for watering lawns, taking showers, washing cars, you name it.

I guess if global warming starts rising the sea levels then folks are going to have to get creative and start building systems to desalinate the water and transport it to reservoirs in the interior of the country.

MDH33
10-25-2007, 12:35 PM
Ten pages, worth reading.

It's actually very terrifying. Almost every person interviewed was some sort of Western water expert and they all seem to be eluding to the fact that there will be scant water available in western states over the next few decades and that 30-50 years from now we will face a humanitarian crisis. Also, even if new systems were engineered (not fiscally possible) there simply will not be enough water for the current population and that population is expected to continue to explode in numbers...

sometimes I hate the human race...:confused:

nuclearlemon
10-25-2007, 01:03 PM
another good reason for me not to have children :D

corsair23
10-25-2007, 02:00 PM
Ten pages, worth reading.

It's actually very terrifying. Almost every person interviewed was some sort of Western water expert and they all seem to be eluding to the fact that there will be scant water available in western states over the next few decades and that 30-50 years from now we will face a humanitarian crisis. Also, even if new systems were engineered (not fiscally possible) there simply will not be enough water for the current population and that population is expected to continue to explode in numbers...

sometimes I hate the human race...:confused:


Agreed...very much worth the reading and scary taken on face value

One interesting part was how bad off Las Vegas is and will be in the future. But you know, you build a city the size of Vegas in a desert, and then attempt to turn it into an oasis and what do you expect?

Another interesting note were the comments about how folks were encouraged to migrate West and settle the land which meant crops, irrigation, etc. All in and an area where a lot of it is considered semi-arid desert.

Here is a conundrum for folks. It is reported that one of the top (if not the #1) causes of global warming is water vapor. Build more houses, add more pools, what not and increase the water vapor which in turns causes more global warming which in turn causes yet more of an increase in water vapor and so on :eek:. How do you stop that :confused:

wesintl
10-25-2007, 11:12 PM
I didn't think it was all that terrifying. Is it an issue, yes. It always has been. It's just that it's time to start thinking about new alternatives to the dams and water rights. The old infrastructure needs to be looked at. It's the same with roads, air travel, electricity grids etc. I think it's definatly worthwhile to note the history and theorys of the demise of the native peoples many many years ago but they didn't have the engineering to overcome such issues. Sure desalination plants, water piplines next to oil and gas pipes. more wind energy, cutting back uses etc. It can be done.

It certainly is interesting the prior appropriation vs riparian water rights. If I could go back one thing i'd study is law and specialize in water rights.

Red_Chili
10-26-2007, 09:13 AM
Agreed, these things tend to balance themselves - in part due to extremists who manage to get the attention of the rest of us. It usually doesn't work out as terrifying as they paint the picture (I grew up with "Silent Spring"), but it does move the culture off dead center to take some moderate action.

The problem is either waiting until the balancing is violent (we almost bought a house in Louviers, they have a REAL problem there just waiting for the next drought!), or taking extreme action now and auguring the economic environment. The inherent damping effect of the large group usually (not always) keeps these swings in check.

I for one put in a small drought resistant lawn (water 1-2x/week, minimally, once it fully establishes) and worked the soil hard before laying it.

Jacket
10-26-2007, 10:06 AM
another good reason for me not to have children :D

That's the part that I really hate when I read about stuff like this. How many more generations will get to come up in the west before we've used up all the natural resources? Will my kids be the last; will it be their kids? The optimist in me believes that science and advancement will be able to come up with a plan to reduce the impact of this change, but I dunno (it would only stand to delay the inevitable without major population controls). Simple things like using gray water to flush the toilet or water the grass seems too simple, yet too few are making any changes.

I guess we'll see. If there is a way to "invest" in water futures, I'd be interested in hearing about it.....

MDH33
10-26-2007, 10:20 AM
....it would only stand to delay the inevitable without major population controls. Simple things like using gray water to flush the toilet or water the grass seems too simple, yet too few are making any changes....

Exactly.

corsair23
10-26-2007, 01:15 PM
Simple things like using gray water to flush the toilet or water the grass seems too simple, yet too few are making any changes.

Exactly.


Seems simple on the surface but then think of the reality of doing this...How feasible is it, in existing homes, to retrofit every home to use gray water to flush the toilets and water the grass? New homes possible and feasible...Existing homes, not so feasible IMO unless I'm missing something :confused:

More incentives for drought resistent landscaping (xeriscape) seems to be a good place to start. And not just the "raise the price of water" type of incentives either. Look at the catch 22 Denver got themselves into. They pushed water conservation and people responded. People responded so well in fact that Denver had to raise the cost of water to make up for the loss of revenue. I imagine many people felt like they got a poke in the eye with a sharp stick on that :(

Similar to energy conservation. I heard Gov. Ritter speak recently and he was asked a question that had to do with creating energy using wind vs. coal/natural gas. The question was would his administration be looking into ways to "incentivise" folks buying up more wind energy. You can buy wind energy today but you have to pay a premium to do so. The questioner wanted to know if Ritter is looking into ways to offset the premium to incourage more use (i.e. tax cuts, whatever). The answer from Ritter? They are looking at INCREASING the cost of coal/natural gas energy production to be more in line with wind energy production to incourage the shift. Yeah, guess that would work :rolleyes:

MDH33
10-26-2007, 01:34 PM
Seems simple on the surface but then think of the reality of doing this...How feasible is it, in existing homes, to retrofit every home to use gray water to flush the toilets and water the grass? New homes possible and feasible...Existing homes, not so feasible IMO unless I'm missing something :confused:




That's what I meant. Technology is there (the $$ isn't), and you'll never get enough people to implement it to make a change soon enough.

Nay
10-26-2007, 10:16 PM
I'd buy a nice piece of property in Colorado along a stream with sufficient water rights for my family and build a passive solar house with greenhouse in a heartbeat if I could get the mortgage to cover it.

One reason (of many) I won't leave Colorado is the amount of fresh water we have coming off the Continental Divide. Water rights law is fine, but if sh$t goes down and we don't solve these problems, I can't see us giving a rats a$$ about California, who has rights to 29% of the flow of the Colorado vs. our 26%, or anybody in between. I'd hate to be living in Southern Cali hoping that lawyers are going to ensure I get my Colorado water.

I planted Streambank Wheatgrass, which is a native northern plains/mountain grass, on my property and don't have an irrigation system - it's not as pretty as my neighbor's kentucky bluegrass, but it will be soon when they can't water anymore. I have an acre, and I am naturalizing it so I don't have to do it again when lawn watering is banned.

If I could drop $50K-$75K I'd get off the grid now - up on the relatively wet Palmer Divide a rooftop water catch system could store a great deal of water for all kinds of uses, including onsite hydrogen production (via solar/wind power driven hydrolysis) for a future hydrogen combustion furnace (BMW already has a production hydrogen combustion engine - the technology for the home furnance exists today).

I'd much rather be finding a solution to water here than say energy in the Northeast where the sun might be out 2-3 days a month in the dead of winter and their system delivers "heating oil". They key will be the availability of financing for real estate purchases and remodels along with gov't incentives. The projected $2.4 trillion we are going to spend on war in the middle east would have retrofited every house in the country.

corsair23
11-01-2007, 10:25 PM
Apparently the SE might have a bigger problem that the West, right now anyway...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21582319/?gt1=10547

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21491111/displaymode/1107/s/2/

Red_Chili
11-02-2007, 08:28 AM
Lake Lanier doesn't look much different than Dillon Reservoir did a couple years ago... Looks like Orme's present might be Louviers' future though.

I did actually know the origins of the B-29 "Enola Gay" when I took the quiz, however! :woot: