Saturday, February 9, 2008

Study finds people to be main cause of water-crunch menace to the U.S. west

Stories like this from the Associated Press raise the question, can the U.S. Southwest survive? The areas with the least secure water supplies seem to have the most frantic development, even in the middle of a real estate bust. The research mentioned in this piece predicts chronic water shortfalls, a lack of means to store water to adjust for seasonally changing river flow. The prospects look bad for agriculture, too. Yet U.S. policymakers seem to be sleepwalking, continuing in the same paths in using water laid down decades ago.

The current trajectory corroborates the "Cadillac desert" scenario suggested in the 1986 by the late Marc Reisner in his book of the same title. Even before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change launched its work, ecologists fretted about the West's disappearing water and the role played by human overuse. What we now have strong reason to believe about water security in the American West just makes the concerns that much more pressing.

Photo of the Painted Desert by, via Wikimedia Commons

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