Flagstaff AZ. Microcosm for water problems


The population in Flagstaff keeps growing. But the drought is now eight years old with no signs of abating. Finding water is getting difficult, and the people keep coming. Flagstaff is hardly alone.

The US Census Bureau projects California’s population will rise to more than 46 million by 2030 from 36.5 million now, while Arizona and Nevada will nearly double to 10.7 million and 4.3 million people, respectively.

The vast bulk of water for the region comes from the Colorado River, and it already merely trickles when it empties into the ocean because so much water is already being diverted.

Thus, the Colorado can hardly be relied upon to provide water for millions more people, especially when dust bowl conditions are being predicted by some for the southwest by 2030.

The current drought in Australia is so severe that the government may be forced to cut off water to agricultural areas to preserve drinking water “heralding what could be the first climate change-driven disaster to strike a developed nation.”

Where Australia is now, the American southwest may well be, and soon. Even the climate change skeptic PM of Australia is finally accepting the truth, that global warming is quite real. Meanwhile, the US government and Congress, including the Democrats, are doing practically nothing about it? Will people have to die or will there have to be food riots before governments truly wake up and do something?

  • Wes Rolley is blogging about CA water issues in depth at

  • Wes

    Thanks for the reference, Lisa.

    Yesterday, the GPCA issued a press release that slammed Gov. Schwarzenegger for his resurrection of the Peripheral Canal plan that was rightfully defeated by voters in the 1980’s. It it not yet online at the GPCA web site, so I will post it at California Greening.

  • DJ

    Here in southern Utah, the State has oversold water rights. (Water belongs to the people, i.e. the State– an interesting concept.) In other words, there are more rights in circulation than there is water, and if they all got used, we’d drain the water table. Groundwater levels have dropped over the past couple of decades. Plus eight of the past ten years have been drought, which doesn’t help.

    Developers need water rights in order to get a development approved, so they’re buying irrigation rights and converting them for domestic use. It actually requires less water for a household on a half acre (.45 AF) than farming (2 AF). But if farmers don’t grow hay, they can’t feed livestock, and that means less food in the market, and higher prices.

    At the same time, the State is aggressively checking water rights for “beneficial use.” If you own a water right and don’t use it, the State can take it away. They’re doing this to get some of the rights out of circulation before they get sold to developers, who WILL use them.

    The area is growing like crazy. There’s plenty of land, so water will be the limiting resource. Meanwhile, Las Vegas has eyes on Utah’s water, as if we had some to spare.

  • Ron

    Does Flagstaff get its water from the Colorado? I would have thought they were of a high enough elevation to get water from local sources/snowmelt.

    In any case, its a huge problem in the Southwest. There are simply more rights than there is in the Colorado.

  • Joe Hartley

    Well, we’ve been through this before with the Anasazi getting wiped out. This time it will be the Anglo settlers, and the land will revert back to the Navaho and Apache. Who says there’s no justice in the world?

  • Well Mr. I-Delight-In-Gloom, consider this. You LIVE in one of those drought areas…

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