Running on empty

What we can learn from West’s unheeded water warning

In the 1880’s, John Wesley Powell directed the United States Geological Survey and warned there were two Americas, one wet, one dry, and that water shortages would force limits in the American southwest. His report was ridiculed by Congress, then promptly ignored.

He, of course, was correct. Even if land developers then and now don’t want to hear it. Yet we still have obscenities like golf courses in deserts, even as the water table drops precipitously.

Is there any better symbol for the criminal cluelessness and greed that is inexorably leading to major and continuing water crises in the Southwest than allowing golf courses to be built in deserts?

Lake Powell drought

Living Rivers says, it’s not a question of if Lake Powell (see photo) will collapse, but when. And that’s just one of many areas experiencing severe and quite possibly permanent drought.

Last year the US Geological Survey warned that the Colorado Plateau should be prepared for several decades of below normal river flows, and of “severe or catastrophic consequences” should the region experience a repeat of the 1942-1977 drought. Recent flows are in fact 15 percent lower than they were when the 1942 drought began.

Oh heck, let’s just keep building golf courses in deserts though. Hey, lots of money can be made by a privileged few, and that’s the important thing, right? And keep those lawns lush and green too.

But all of that will change, once the obvious fact of continuing water shortages becomes clear and unavoidable.