Thinking Citizen Blog — The Colorado River: “Drying up Fast” (NYT)
Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day
Today’s Topic: The Colorado River: “Drying up Fast” (NYT)
“A breathtaking amount of the water from the Colorado — about 10 per cent of the river’s recent total flow — simply evaporates off sprawling surfaces of large reservoirs as they bake in the sun,” wrote Abram Lustgarten, in the Sunday New York Times. “Yet federal officials have so far discounted technological fixes — like covering the water surface to reduce the losses — and they continue to maintain both reservoirs, even though both of them are only around a third full. If the two wee combined, some experts argue, much of those losses could be avoided.” So what should be done? What can be done? Who has the authority to make the decision? Who should? Today, a few more excerpts from the Lustgarten article. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
HOW BAD IS IT? WHY DOES IT MATTER?
1. “This year, even though rainfall and snowpack high up in the Rocky Mountains were at near-normal levels, the parched oils and plants stricken by intense heat absorbed much of the water, and inflows to Lake Powell were around one-fourth of their usual amount.”
2. “The Colorado’s flow has already declined by nearly 29%, on average, from its flow throughout the 1900s, and if the current rate of warming continues the loss could well be 50% by the end of the century.”
3. “In addition to providing water for the peoples of seven states, 29 federally recognized tribes and northern Mexico, its water is used to grow everything from the carrots stacked on supermarket shelves in New Jersey to the beef in a hamburger at a Massachusetts diner.”
NB: “The power generated by its two biggest dams — the Hoover and the Glen Canyon — is marketed across an electricity grid reaches from Arizona to Wyoming.”
LOOMING CHOICES, FARMERS AND RANCHERS, CALIFORNIA
1. “States will be forced to choose which coastlines to abandon as sea levels rise, which wildfire-prone suburbs to retreat from, and which small towns cannot afford new infrastructure to protect against floods or heat.”
2. “What to do in the parts of the country that are losing their essential supply of water may turn out to be the first among these choices.”
3. “Since about 70% of water delivered from the Colorado River goes to growing crops, not to people in cities, the next step will likely be to demand large-scale reductions for farmers and ranchers across millions of acres of land…”
NB: “California, so far shielded from major cuts, has already agreed to reductions that will take effect if the drought worsens. But it may be asked to do more….”
NONESSENTIAL CROPS USED FOR MEAT PRODUCTION AND FOR EXPORT
1. “A majority of the water used by farms — and thus much of the river — goes to growing nonessential crops like alfalfa and other grasses that feed cattle for meat production.”
2. “Much of the grasses are also exported to feed animals in the Middle East and Asia.”
3. “Short of regulating which types of crops are allowed, which state authorities may not even have the authority to do, it may fall to consumers to drive change.”
NB: “Water usage data suggests that if Americans avoid meat one day each week they could save an amount of water equivalent to the entire flow of the Colorado each year, more than enough water to alleviate the region’s shortages.”
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