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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail