Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Disappearing River

by JOHN WEISHEIT

“You’ll be sucking air before that gets done,” said Patricia Mulroy in August, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. Mulroy is the General Manager of Southern Nevada Water Authority, and made this statement in reference to how long a US Supreme Court battle would take to resolve the impending Colorado River crisis over water rights. Of course, Mulroy’s statement insinuates that Lakes Mead and Powell are destined to go empty in the next twelve-years, which is how long the last Supreme Court decision took to resolve.

In July of 2005, two board members of Living Rivers drove to Las Vegas to essentially say, at a public gathering of water managers, “the intakes of Hoover Dam will soon be sucking air.” During our presentation, a few of the most recalcitrant water managers audibly laughed at us. Today, apparently, the threat of Hoover Dam sucking air isn’t very funny any more.

We provided an alternative back then, which was to decommission Glen Canyon Dam and to instead store surplus water in depleted aquifers throughout the basin. However, I have to confess that our “One-Dam Solution” isn’t really an original idea. Living Rivers merely harvested a few good ideas that we stumbled upon, while reading the public record of the “most studied river in the world.”

The tab in this public record begins in the year 1953 when a lawyer by the name of Northcutt Ely pointed out to Congress that Glen Canyon Dam, in time, would become a burden to maximizing the available water supply efficiently, once the Colorado River system reached the level of maximum consumption. Mr. Ely even provided the year when that situation would approximately occur, which was 2000. As it turns out, he was spot on and I wish he had lived long enough to see it happen for himself. I doubt people laughed at Mr. Ely back then, since he was best known as the lead author for the ultimate analysis of the “Law of the River,” which is called the The Hoover Dam Documents.

You could keep Lakes Mead and Powell nearly full, and the generators buzzing, if the demand in the basin were cut by a third. As it is now, the over-reaching for water in the Colorado River basin has exceeded the supply, and in 50-years the imbalance will grow at least 21 percent. The take-home message here is: if Mr. Ely believed it, and Ms. Mulroy believes it, then maybe the people should believe it too. Obviously, the next step is to make some changes that are correct, since the changes of the past were incorrect.

I will admit that 4-years of abundant snowfall could shave some layers of worry off the mind’s of these water managers. Pat Mulroy said as much herself when she mentioned, “praying for a change of weather couldn’t hurt either.” But eventually the Day of Reckoning is gonna come. And when it does, unfortunately we will discover that our underground reservoirs are going empty too.

Okay, so now the nation is a dollar short in a big time way, and finally looking back to realize it just squandered a few decades of precious time to properly prepare the Southwest for this really monstrous problem. Consequently, the infrastructure isn’t in place and won’t be for at least another 30-years. Other river basins that might actually have a surplus of water in 50-years aren’t really interested in sharing their water with the unquenchable people of the desert.

Folks, let’s start to get real. The problem isn’t the Colorado River and neither is it the solution. The blame and the fix rests on we the people. It won’t come from the water managers, because they are the ones who got us into this mess in the first place. Whatever it is that they want, it will be the wrong choice. In my opinion, they should all begin a new career in show business, since they seem to enjoy laughing their problems away.

We need to curb our consumption. We need to downsize our population. We have to kick our dependance on finite resources, especially hydrocarbons. We need to build communities and watersheds, and stop this insidious and absurd accumulation of wealth that is diverting and delaying the changes that urgently must take place. I am sure you can add to this list. The possibilities and opportunities are truly endless. Otherwise, enjoy the river and the reservoirs until they are gone.

John Weisheit is a co-founder of Living Rivers based in Moab, Utah and the official Colorado Riverkeeper. His book Cataract Canyon: An environmental and human history of the rivers in Canyonlands. He can be reached at: john@livingrivers.org

 

.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]