The Dying American Southwest

Yves here. From the early days of this site, we identified potable water as the first important natural resource that would come under stress. The shortages in the Southwest demonstrate what is set for many places which have long had water supply issues, like Australia.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

“The crumbling America that they drove across, where Texans were strung up on New Mexico fences as warnings, most definitely wasn’t the America he kept in his head.”
Paolo Bacigalupi, The Water Knife

From an op-ed in the Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun:

It’s time for Army Corps of Engineers to investigate the feasibility of moving water West

Numerous letters … have commented recently on the possibility of moving water from the Mississippi River to the Colorado River at Lake Powell (Glen Canyon dam on the Utah/Colorado border) and then downstream to Lake Mead (Hoover Dam/Las Vegas) and on through Arizona and beyond. Some of these letters are supportive and some not. The whole point of suggesting this solution to the Southwest’s water problem is to generate a public demand to the Army Corps of Engineers to investigate the feasibility of such a project.

I suggested diverting 250,000 gallons/second, which is only about 5% of the flow on the lower Mississippi south of the Old River Control Structure (ORCS) in Central Louisiana 300 miles above New Orleans. This water does nothing except flow out into the Gulf of Mexico. It generates no electricity and doesn’t help commercial shipping or recreational boating. It only causes flooding problems in New Orleans. No state above the OCRS would suffer any loss of water.

If 250,000 gals/sec is impractical, have the Corps consider a flow of 125,000 gals/sec (only 2.5% of the downriver flow), which would take two to three years to fill Lakes Powell and Mead. This is a rather rapid and reasonable time frame to solve the water problems of the Southwest.

The writer is a resident whose opinion was boosted to the op-ed section of his local paper. Of course, writers on this subject who live near the Mississippi are resistant (though some agree that the project might reduce Mississippi flooding), and the general response from them is “Hell no.”

I live in the Pacific Northwest. Opinion here, about schemes to take water from the Columbia River to feed the Californias of the world, is also “Hell no.” Everyone I know in Chicago feels the same way about sending Great Lakes water to the drying Southwest. “Hell no,” they say, with almost a single voice.

Of course, there’s more than one problem with schemes to rob water from … somewhere … to make the Southwest viable again. In the case of the Mississippi River scheme, that problem is this, from the same op-ed:

Yes, this would require massive pumping stations to lift the water up the Continental Divide at some point (the lowest lift would be 4,000 feet in Campbell, New Mexico, close to Albuquerque), but then it would be all downhill using gravity to Lake Powell or somewhere else on the Colorado above the Glen Canyon Dam. One writer suggested a series of windmills to generate the electricity, but, of course, you would need holding basins for those times when the wind isn’t blowing. That would be the Corps’ job to figure out exactly how to generate the electricity.

“That would be the Corps’ job” to figure all this out. I don’t know the political affiliation of this Palm Springs resident, but I can guess. He wants to take water from someone else’s river, raise it 4,000 feet, pipe it 1,400 miles away, and use the Army (not taxes) to do the job — all so he can live in a dying desert town for a few more years. Perhaps he’s a government-hater only on weekdays.

The Drying Southwest Desert

Face it — the great American Southwest is in trouble, real trouble. From that same Desert Sun, a summer news report (emphasis added):

Coachella Valley is experiencing one of its hottest summers on record — again. Surprised? Here are the stats

On June 15 and July 10, 2021, the daily maximum temperature records were broken at 120 degrees. Aug. 3 and 4 of that year also saw records fall, with the thermometer hitting 119 and 122, respectively. And on June 17, 2021, Palm Springs hit 123 degrees, tying the record for the hottest day ever.

By the time fall hit, and temperatures dropped back into the double-digits, eight daily maximum temperature records had fallen. This summer, as many other parts of the country experience record-breaking heat, temperatures in the Coachella Valley have yet to hit daily records. Notably, the mercury hasn’t hit 120 degrees. …

[T]he average temperatures in June and July have 2022 on track to be one of the hottest summers recorded in the Coachella Valley. … [W]e’re just 1.5 degrees off the record pace of last year [for average summer temperature].

The Coachella Valley — and indeed, all of the American Southwest — is becoming unlivable:

Climate change is expected to push average high temperatures in the Coachella Valley up by 8 to 14 degrees by the end of this century, according to a state assessment of climate change in the Inland Deserts region.

And the op-ed writer wants to solve the problem by creating a 1,400-mile pipeline over the Rockies so he can continue to live there … instead of, let’s say, moving.

It’s a silly idea, of course, and it won’t happen, just as all the other silly ideas — drain water from the Columbia and send it to the south, drain water from the Great Lakes and send it to west, desalinate the salty blue Pacific — none of these are going to happen.

Which leaves two unappealing choices: The op-ed writer and all his friends can move, destroying whatever towns and cities they’re fleeing; or they can stay put and fight with everyone else in the dying Southwest desert for the last scraps of water left to them. And then they can move.


Paolo Bacigalupi’s prescient novel The Water Knife is about just such a fight:

In Papa’s head, things looked one way, but in Maria’s experience they were nothing the same. He kept saying that this was America and America was all about freedom and doing what you wanted, but the crumbling America that they drove across, where Texans were strung up on New Mexico fences as warnings, most definitely wasn’t the America he kept inside his head.

People who want to leave will get out. People who refuse to leave — or can’t afford to — will fight for survival in the way the Western world has always fought for survival, by destroying everything of anyone else’s they can to keep control of what’s theirs.

You don’t see it now, this fight, so it may be hard to imagine. But look at the changes to Lake Mead below…


…then imagine Lake Mead, a lifeline for water in the West, fed by a dying river, in 15 years.

What will the great and the good, the city fathers and mothers, of Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles do to survive? Whatever they do — abandon their towns to rot or to those who can’t leave; or stay and battle it out for the myth of more water — whatever they do, the death of the American Southwest will be felt across the country, and in more ways than one.

Take one last look, America, at the place that you are leaving, the land of the City of Angels and the bird that’s reborn in flames. That place will be gone in less than a generation if America’s great and good stay on their current path.

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132 comments

  1. EB

    This photograph reminds me of the Aral Sea bordering Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan which started to dry up in the 1960s

    Reply
    1. Cocomaan

      I don’t know the area, what happened to towns in that region? Nothing good I imagine.

      Wrt the article, there’s ways to deal with the problem that don’t involve stupid solutions, but common sense is in short supply.

      Reply
    2. Chris Smith

      I worked on a project measuring the shrinkage of the Aral Sea in college in the early ’90s using photos from shuttle missions and satellites. It was frightening then, even more so now that the Aral is effectively two bodies of water. Moreover, the dust storms that were caused by the shrinking sea eventually destroyed several small cities and villages in the area. Great Salt Lake and Lake Mead are looking very similar.

      Reply
    3. voislav

      Bottom set is the Aral Sea, so you were dead on. It’s interesting, because Aral Sea was intentionally dried out during Soviet times as a part of the Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature.

      Reply
    4. Steven A

      As a graduate student in the 1980s we used the Aral Sea as a case study in environmental mismanagement. Massive amounts of water were pumped out to irrigate the thirsty cotton fields to the south and northeast. Unfortunately, the water does not recharge as fast as it is extracted.

      Reply
    1. Paul Art

      In this case taxes of a vast majority who dont live in the Southwest?
      After reading Cadillac Desert I have acquired a passionate hatred for the rich farmers in the west.

      Reply
      1. Louis Fyne

        cut back water allocations to rich farmers, the Southwest can get some breathing room for water.

        of course that’ll mean produce inflation, especially in the winter. either shoppers learned to adapt (canned, pickled) or pay the high price.

        Agriculture is by far the big water hog in the southwest—even w/the massive development over the past 20 – 50 years

        Reply
        1. John

          It was canned and pickled when I was a boy. I preferred fresh which was made summer a season to be longed for.

          Reply
        2. dermotmoconnor

          Agri is 80% of water use IIRC.
          Not that people should be off the hook either – fuck their swimming pools and their stupid lawns. But they’ll die before they give those up too. As well as the golf courses, I mean, how can you bear to live without golf?
          CA grows RICE FFS, RICE!!!!!!!!!
          These morons are doomed.

          Reply
        3. Grateful Dude

          produce can be grown indoors; this is already happening even in dense cities. How about repurposing rust belt factories where all the fresh water is? Aren’t the Great Lakes rising?

          If Phoenix and Las Vegas were abandoned, would the desert lakes fill again? Lately, we’re seeing “monsoonal” moisture in the Sierras from Sonora …

          Climate change is not well predictable. What does a hotter Pacific mean for rain patterns? We’re getting showers in the Sierras now! Hurricanes off the west coast of Mexico? I cringe when I see predictions for 2050 and the end of the century. This is all happening much faster than that. How about the melting icecaps cool the oceans. What happens when all that ice is melting and the cooling stops? IMHO, we’ll be lucky to see another 20 years of generally habitable planet.

          Reply
      2. digi_owl

        I wonder if calling them agri bosses would be more accurate than farmers, as i suspect few of them work the land directly these days.

        Reply
    2. eg

      Where the US Federal government is concerned, expenditures in $USD (like for instance military budgets) are not “funded” by tax revenue. In this process real resources are “appropriated” with newly created fiat currency. The taxation comes afterwards as a reserve drain to manage inflation.

      For the monetary sovereign (like the US Federal government) the primary purpose of taxation is to give the currency value, not to accumulate the tokens over which it exercises a jealous monopoly of issue (try counterfeiting if you don’t believe me) either via the treasury or its agents, the Fed and the commercial banks. There are other economic and social purposes of taxation — for instance to modify consumer behaviour, or in a democracy to prevent the emergence of a plutocracy.

      Reply
      1. Dick Swenson

        THIS IS A PERFECT SHORT DESCRPTION OF MMT. Thank you! Note, this does not jusify any particular monetary policy. It only describes the FACT of MMT.

        Reply
        1. cocomaan

          Agreed, we have MMT when we need it, particularly when it comes to maintaining Pax Americana military hegemony.

          Reply
  2. The Rev Kev

    You’ll know that they are serious about tackling this problem in the American south-west when it is legislated that no more permits will be issued to build any more homes or businesses anymore as in at all. Said in a previous comment that this idea of pumping water in form the rest of the country is that so they can have tens of millions of more people move into this region whose wishes will be electorally too powerful to ignore.

    Reply
    1. Joe Well

      What is totally shocking is that here on the opposite end of the country in Massachusetts, where jobs and water on average abound (In a drought now but a New England drought is still more water than Arizona will ever see), there are enormous restrictions on growth. We are hemorrhaging US citizens and only growing thanks to international immigrants who can be crammed into slums.

      Massachusetts is an extreme case but I think a similar dynamic could be observed nationwide: the places that could support more people, at least if they were in apartment buildings and not Mcmansions, are less likely to allow people in, while the desert is all about growth and a broad middle class.

      Reply
      1. digi_owl

        The same shit is going on world wide, because land/property it the one way most people can get some collateral for loans. And in order to get more loans, the value of the collateral has to rise. And thus you need to ensure the property market is a tight one.

        Reply
    2. J.Bean

      I interviewed with a company headquartered in Tucson Arizona. When the offer came it required me to move to Tucson instead of the remote work I thought we had agreed upon.

      All communication from them stopped when I inquired, “Will you pay relocation costs when they turn off the water in Tucson in the next five years?”

      Reply
      1. Arizona Slim

        I’m right here in Tucson, and let me tell you something about this town: We’re one of America’s best places for water harvesting. I’ve got an oasis rolling right along here at the Arizona Slim Ranch, and here’s the organization that helped me make it happen:

        https://watershedmg.org/

        BTW, it has been raining for much of the night, and that’s a good thing, because my earthworks are soaking it right up and my cistern is refilling.

        Reply
        1. LY

          The Sonora desert is one of the wettest deserts, with two periods of rains – the summer monsoons and the winter rains. This is why you can only find the famous Saguaro cactus there, as it has rather specific climate and water needs.

          While population is a problem, and climate change will bring more uncertainty, the major problem is what the water is used for. Tucson uses (used?) part of its allotment of Colorado river via the Central Arizona Project (CAP) net positive ground water recharging! Until community interests of sane land use and sane development triumphs over hyper-individualism and the ideological sanctity of property rights, this won’t change.

          Reply
          1. Michael Ismoe

            “Will you pay relocation costs when they turn off the water in Tucson in the next five years?”

            I think I know why your interview ended. There’s more than enough water for personal use in Arizona. In fact they are planning a mini-metropolis that extends from Phoenix to Tucson by 2040 that will include about 12 million people.

            They need to re-allocate the water and remove grandfather rights so that the state of Arizona is not allocating millions of gallons of water so that the Saudis can’t grow hay for their racehorses in the desert – or at least this one.

            Smarter, not harder.

            https://www.12news.com/article/news/local/water-wars/saudi-arabia-arizona-farm-alfalfa-1940/75-c7eb6295-3c5e-4b7e-8989-fbf4d41c6aa7

            https://gulfif.org/arizona-arabia-alfalfa-lessons-from-the-gulf-for-a-southwestern-water-crisis/

            Reply
            1. Arizona Slim

              Me? I’m disappointed because I didn’t get to meet J.Bean in person.

              Oh, well.

              J.Bean, when NC meetups resume, you are invited to the one I will host here in Tucson.

              Reply
            2. Anthony G Stegman

              Much of what is grown in California is exported. Big Ag exports millions of acre feet of water each year. Restrict exports and prices don’t have to jump.

              Reply
    3. DF

      70% or more of the water out West is used for agriculture, not for homes, businesses, and factories.

      The bigger question to answer is why we’re using scarce water resources to grow crops like alfalfa, corn, and cotton that can be grown in lots of other less water-stressed regions.

      Reply
      1. nippersdad

        …And then exporting it!

        It has always shocked me that we are draining the Oglala and other fossil waters to send elsewhere. If we were bottling it maybe people would see how short sighted that is.

        Reply
      2. dermotmoconnor

        As well as rice (as I mentioned above). One of the most water intensive plants! And of course, cattle, another water intensive food production.

        There’s a youtube channel called “sin city outdoors”, well worth watching. Men who fish on lake mead, but their fishing channel is shifting to tracking the rapidly falling water levels. Must-watch stuff.

        Reply
    4. anon in so cal

      California Governor Gavin Newsom mandates construction of at least 2.5 million new homes in California.

      Newsom also placed ads in Florida urging Floridians to move to California.

      Where will the water come from?

      Are Californians also okay with filling up the state’s remaining open space with concrete? Areas that used to be open space and replete with native trees and plants are now filled with subdivisions.

      The greater Los Angeles area and southern California more generally also have huge traffic congestion issues.

      I attended a meeting last week concerning California assemblyman Ash Kalra’s AB 2278. It aims to put some teeth in what looks to be Newsom’s hollow and ambiguous promise to save 30%—a paltry 30%—of California’s land and water (is that 30% each or, worse, 30% altogether? Cannot find an answer to that Q).

      “Under existing law, by Executive Order No. N-82-20, Governor Gavin Newsom directed the Natural Resources Agency to combat the biodiversity and climate crises by, among other things, establishing the California Biodiversity Collaborative and conserving at least 30% of the state’s lands and coastal waters by 2030.”

      Maybe AB 2278 will help. As it stands, Newsom’s plan has not been implemented, two years after it was announced. No steps or procedures are in place to even identify lands to be preserved. There is no monitoring, no reporting, no transparency. Just hollow promises.

      Reply
    1. Paul Art

      I think if the 1% in this country figure out a way to make money by moving water from the Great Lakes then this treaty will be abrogated in the blink of an eye. I am fairly sure someone in the PE hedgie community will definitely figure a way out

      Reply
      1. CGKen

        A crack in the compact came a few years ago when Trump, Walker, and Foxconn said they were going to build a plant in southeast Wisconsin. Any sort of electronics factory needs massive amounts of water to keep things clean and the site didn’t quite have access to enough. There are all sorts of rules in the compact about who can take water from the Great Lakes and who they can sell it to, but generally the water has to be for public consumption. There are also environmental considerations.

        Because this was Trump’s pet project most of these rules were bent or ignored so the factory could get its water. As of now the site has warehouses and a data center built. It will likely never have an electronics factory. I doubt it is using all that much water so in this case no great harm. But it shows that the compact isn’t as “watertight” as it could be.

        Reply
        1. UncleDoug

          Fun fact: The world’s largest chip manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (“TSMC”) is planning a large facility in Arizona.

          Large chip plants use many millions of gallons of water daily, as much as several hundred thousand households.

          Reply
          1. Charger01

            Chip building also needs heavy and consistent megawatts. Salt River Project or Tucson Electric may be hard pressed

            Reply
        2. Paul Harvey 0swald

          That FoxConn factory deal is dead – has been for years now. It was a Scott Walker debacle from the get-go, and never got to the runway, let alone off the ground. Some infrastructure was put in place (at tax payer expense, of course) and the current governor is trying to get some clawbacks. A few hundred people were initially hired, then a few thousand to make a deadline – and then immediately let go. I’m not aware of any rules (i.e. Great Lakes Compact) bending for water within that deal, and I have my doubts. Every state on the Great Lakes has to approve, and that includes Canada.

          Furthermore, the compact rules mandate that (within reason) the water taken from the lake must be returned back to the lake. This rule alone negates any “pipe lake water to the west” ideas.

          On the other hand, the US is largely considered “agreement incapable” now, so, you know, rules like the Great Lakes Compact are just some words on a paper.

          Reply
          1. HotFlash

            Thank you for the info, PHG, otherwise difficult for us normal plebes to find. BTW, cool handle. I am so old that I remember both those guys — felt like there was a hope in Hell back then.

            Reply
      2. redleg

        Recently a company applied for a permit to ship MN groundwater to the Colorado basin by rail. It was shot down by MN DNR and the MN Attorney General as impermissible. I was on the permitting team that received the application, and it raised the hackles of just about everyone in the state (and county) who knew about the plan, whether they were R or D. There were some exceptions, mostly Rs, but the farmers, hunters, and trout fishers slapped them down. It was an amazing response that generated a legal-speak “Hell NO” and encouraging to see it happen.

        Reply
    2. BeliTsari

      Sounds like snippets of 1960s Scifi short stories? Geoengineering, GE monoculture, carbon-sequestration; mini reactors, bio-fuel & range-extender EV or fuel-cell trucks. Top 2% in Geeley Volvos, LI or BYD trucks while we the peons realize there’s NO mass transit & try to electrify 2nd hand10 speeds so we don’t die of heat stroke like Amazon & UPS drivers. Nancy short all her hubby’s East Asian semiconductor, PHEV, battery, PV, smart grid equities, to buy on the dip, yet?

      Reply
  3. Ignacio

    One of the problems with water transfers is that they will only allow the SW to live above their water possibilities for some longer and then the problem returns only getting bigger with time.

    Reply
    1. nippersdad

      I have never been clear on why solar desalination plants are not considered. Salt has been harvested in the Sahel for thousands of years, so were one to capture the evaporate in, say, some kind of greenhouse, there would be plenty of water all along the Pacific coast; prolly enough to export to other states as well. Plus, you could sell he sea salt (replete with microplastics) to create an entirely new industry which would obviate the need to put hypersalinated water back into the oceans.

      It is not like Death Valley and the Central Valley aren’t right there already, and Mono lake showed that even the accidents can have unforeseen rewards.

      Reply
      1. tindrum

        takes huge amounts of energy if you want to get sensible volumes and leaves a massive salt-sludge environmental disaster as a by-product.

        Reply
        1. chris

          Takes a lot of money and time to build the plants too. Plus you need to connect to municipal water systems. This is a prime example of people thinking that because something already exists it is trivial to implement.

          But even if you get desalination plants working at scale, that won’t help Arizona. Or Utah. Or Colorado. Or New Mexico. Or Nevada. That part of the US is likely to dry up and fade away. In “The Water Knife”, the characters talk about disaster porn. That’s what places like Florida and the American SW on are track to become.

          Reply
          1. Sel Gossett

            Florida leaders already know time is short. Fresh water is such a problem in SW Florida around Tampa Bay, over a billion dollars has been squandered trying desal with unqualified companies. This has gone on for over 20 years. The Tampa Bay Times has an informative series on it. Tampa Bay had three pipelines from counties to the north and east of it supplying water as salt water had destroyed many municipal wells in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
            Florida is built on people moving here. That’s it. Everything else is small potatoes, tourism, etc. Military bases are big. In the 2008 downturn, the state economy had a huge hole blown through it because people moving here very nearly ceased. Retirees stayed put, waiting out the real estate market collapse.
            It has been documented that there are 1200 plus people a day moving here.
            It’s why Florida has moved up to the third most populous state.
            The lens of freshwater Florida wells draw from is rapidly being depleted. There is a salt water intrusion happening. It shows up most dramatically in the springs that dot the state.

            Reply
      2. Carolinian

        As detailed in a recent article here the guv of AZ wants to build a plant…in Mexico. Don’t think it would be solar–more like Saudis.

        Reply
        1. nippersdad

          No engineer here, but it just seems like the energy inputs necessary in the desert (solar) are already there; at a hundred twenty degrees you will get a lot of ambient heat which can then be intensified using a green house effect. If you were to use a greenhouse type of environment over shallow dark colored pools you should get plenty of evaporation that you could then condense (in cool underground tanks?) for water that is nearly potable. The more pools you have the fewer you would have to idle while you scraped out the salt residue. Any further purification could be done at the metropolitan pumping stations where it is already happening.

          No real need for extra energy inputs.

          So Death Valley, say, is just over the mountains from LA. Piping Pacific water to Death Valley would be far more cost effective than bringing it all the way from Colorado. If all you have to surmount are the Santa Monica mountains (?), then you pump it to the top and then let the siphon effect take it the rest of the way, at which you can turn off your pump. Return journey should work the same way.

          Other than the initial pumping to produce your siphon, you should require no further energy inputs.

          You could mechanize a system that would scrape all of the salt out of the dry ponds for storage until you could take it out for disposal by train car, or something. So no real pollution nightmare, either in the desert or the ocean, or new energy inputs necessary save for your mechanical salt scrapers and the trains taking the stuff out of Death Valley. The energy that you do use would have to be less than that used to pump the Colorado all the way to California.

          I don’t know that my geography is correct, all of this is back of the envelope, but it seems like something like that could be worked out all along the desert areas of the West coast, including down in Mexico. The concept has been used to get water by campers in deserts for centuries; Boy Scouts are taught how to do this. You do enough of them and you could have enough water to export to other states.

          If there is one thing that area has, it is Pacific Ocean and lots of sunlight; I fail to understand why it has to be made so difficult.

          Reply
          1. chris

            This is a complicated topic, but most all of the desalination plants I’m familiar with rely on reverse osmosis to create the fresh water from sea water. That is a power hungry process, and then you consider the volume of water that needs to be moved, the intake structures that need to be designed so that you have the proper volume input without effecting sealife, which will involve a lot of maintenance to keep working properly, and then you start to consider the magnitude of the problem before you even try to ship it over a mountain. Solar could certainly be part of the energy which drives the process, but it is too unreliable for use as the main source of energy. Also, these plants would need to run at night too, complicating how much solar could be of use. There’s certainly options. But none that are easy and quick.

            When it comes to transportation of the water, via pipeline or canal or whatever, there are significant challenges. The Central Arizona Project took about 20 years to build. This would require more complex intake and conveyance systems in an environment where the US does not build big very well anymore.

            There’s plenty of good papers describing the desalination process and what people have been trying to do for the American SW’s water needs. I grew up in Tucson. I feel bad for the people stuck there as things dry out. But then it’s always been a hard luck kind of place with some booms and many busts. I don’t think the region or our country has the leadership to get us started with any plan to help or to finish any plan we start. I think the US SW will become a ghost metropolis – a place full of solar powered plants and drones and robots doing things for the military and big contractors like Google or Leidos. I think the time of places like Arizona being for little people is over. We’ll have some hardscrabble people in places around the grand canyon. We’ll have settlements here and there. But I can’t see the place staying anything like where people want to live in a few years.

            I think a managed retreat and a reasonable industrial and agricultural policy would do much more good than big plans that will never be started.

            Reply
    2. Susan the Other

      Unless they are designed to a limit which, by law, must be maintained. That is possible but we just hate to do it here in “the land of the free” – probably one definition we will have to deal with very soon is that our use of “free” does not mean carefree. In fact, quite the opposite.

      Reply
  4. Skippy

    Reminiscent of the collapse of all the meso American societies due to climatic change, strangely enough previous to that data the classical minded put it all down to human social failure e.g. burnishing the classical notion of organization as being the one true way to go about it all …

    Reply
    1. eg

      I don’t get it — what’s the alternative to “organization” where human living arrangements are concerned?

      Reply
      1. skippy

        Classical saw itself as superior to theses societies, so much so the environmental aspect was never considered, when the evidence started to roll in fought against it.

        Reply
        1. Sel Gossett

          The last evidence I saw about SW meso American societal collapse had much to do with a 200+ year drought over the region.

          Reply
  5. Polly Cleveland

    One option not mentioned is to use water much more efficiently. Agriculture wastes by far the most. So replace open furrow and sprinkler irrigation with drip irrigation. Stop water-intensive crops like fruit trees. In cities, no more green lawns and golf courses.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      Hate to say it but they might have to consider setting up infrastructure to recycle pee water as drinking water. Not the virtuous circle that you are looking for.

      Reply
    2. Louis Fyne

      better yet, just get rid of those farms. but they are too powerful, particularly in California.

      Paging Newsome and Pelosi

      Reply
        1. ALBERT D LAREW

          YES. Companies like Nestle can pull immense amounts of water at minimal charge and sell bottled water at a sick profit. It must stop.

          Reply
      1. juno mas

        Well, what is used on golf courses is secondary treated wastewater. That is something infinitely more benign than grey-water. My town pays residences to replace lawns with water-conserving, native plants. (Decorative rock gets no funding.)

        While grey-water can be carefully used at one’s own home. Commercial (municipal) use is a no-go. Many municipalities now treat there wastewater to Tertiary standards and it is widely used inside buildings for non-personal-contact use (flushing commodes).

        Wastewater treatment operations require substantial electrical power, clean make-up water reserve (when the plant gets overloaded), and constant control/observation by wastewater engineers.

        No free lunch.

        Reply
      2. Anthony G Stegman

        That is not an accurate statement. In suburbia the vast majority of turf lawns are irrigated with potable water. On occasion there are some commercial buildings using reclaimed (non-potable) water. Irrigating lawns is the single biggest use of potable water, excluding agricultural use. On the east side of the Sierra sits the town of Long Pine. When driving through the town one notices the large Los Angeles Department of Water and Power building along with its lush green lawn. That lawn is irrigated with potable water taken from the Owen Valley.

        Reply
  6. Polar Socialist

    I know it’s totally stupid idea, but why not just repurpose the oil pipelines running from Fort Nelson, Canada, to California and Arizona to take the water of Muskwa river down south.

    Otherwise all that water will just go to the Arctic Ocean via Mackenzie system and the last thing the poor polar bears need is more water.

    And if Europe can do without (cheap) oil, surely South-West can do it, too.

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      the Southwest is designed to function on cheap energy.

      Phoenix, Las Vegas, LA urban planners all imported the LeCorbusier archetype of separate living-working-shopping zones as the LeCorbusier was the avant-garde progressive role model for his day. (But instead of everyone living in monolithic towers, the American twist was everyone living in their own detached homes.)

      without a car, life is inconvenient. and forget walking in the summertime.

      LeCorbusier and his intellectual offspring (see Robert Moses) are the leaded gasoline of urban planning.

      Reply
      1. digi_owl

        We keep coming back to them post-war architects etc thinking hey could shape man by shaping their living environment, and then having it blow up in their face.

        Usually by restricting the kinds of activities people could do within the confines of the designer towns, in very conservative, almost puritan, ways.

        Reply
        1. Anthony G Stegman

          It’s a Christian thing. Man having dominion over nature. And nature being servants of man. A very sick and twisted belief system.

          Reply
  7. Randall Flagg

    >make the Southwest viable again.
    Was it ever in the first place? Or it was but not to the standard of living/water use that the average person expects today?
    Please correct me if wrong but I believe there is a huge chip making plant being built outside of Phoenix, the big deal is that it uses very little water during the manufacturing process. That’s lovely but what about all the water needed for all the new employees that will live/move there?
    Where was the common sense in allowing these huge dairy farms to be sited in Arizona, require huge amounts of water fir the animals and to grow the feed?
    Though it’s incredibly sad and painful, it’s time to accept the reality that continuing on there with more building, more this, more that, is not a good plan. Somebody’s ox is going to get gored when reality hits harder than it is now.
    Mr Rev Kev above has it correct. When they stop issuing permits fir new buildings and other water controls, you’ll know the problem is being addressed.

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      yes, that’s the rub.

      Southwest is perfectly habitable if it was a hodgepodge of retirement communities and tiny tourist towns.

      But you have LA. Then as LA got too expensive, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson have all turned into diversified full-servie metropolis. And the southwest has a growing semiconductor and “green energy” plants.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Those semiconductor plants use a lot of water in the manufacturing process.
        See: https://www.theverge.com/22628925/water-semiconductor-shortage-arizona-drought
        Add that to the present ‘shortage’ of neon, thanks to the Russo-Ukraine War, said neon necessary for the lasers that etch the chip blanks, and you get a perfect “Kiss of Death” scenario for any major Southwestern chip manufacturing plants. It will end up like the Foxconn plant in Wisconsin.
        All of the above being strong arguments for the nationalization of chip manufacturing companies in America.
        As the piece about America’s military decline shows, short term ‘Commercial’ thinking is literally destroying the Nation.

        Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          I was just reading this-

          ‘The United States accounts for about 40% of the world’s large cloud and internet data sites. Utah is home to at least 25 “colocation” data centers, according to a Data Center Map estimate, most of them near Salt Lake City. Those sites, like Novva, rent servers to a variety of customers, from gas stations to medical companies. The figure doesn’t include big centers run by single entities, like the U.S. National Security Agency’s operation in Bluffdale or Facebook’s facility in Eagle Mountain.

          And most data centers, regardless of their operators, rely on evaporative cooling to keep their servers at optimal temperatures. Some gulp down millions of gallons each month.’

          And that includes the NSA’s center in Utah, a State not known for its lushness-

          https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2022/07/11/yes-data-centers-use-lot-water/

          Reply
          1. lyman alpha blob

            And all so every little link or pic or random thought people post to social media can be saved forever.

            Reply
          2. playon

            The availability of both water and cheap electricity is the reason Google and Microsoft located server farms close to the Columbia river in eastern WA. It’s also why Wenatchee WA is the bitcoin mining capital of the western US.

            Looking farther into the future, if climate change progresses to the point of shrinking the glaciers and the snowfall in the Cascade mountains, that water (and the electricity it generates) will become scarce.

            Reply
          3. Karl

            I was curious about the source of water for those data centers….According to the referenced article:

            “It’s a worse story than you can imagine,” Swenson said. “They’re using culinary water, not irrigation [water], so it’s been treated by the city. … It’s a complete waste of a resource.”

            A month ago the NY Times ran a very interesting article about the shrinkage of the Great Salt Lake, which the headline refers to as an “emerging environmental catastrophe.”

            The lake is shrinking because of increasing diversions of freshwater runoff from the surrounding mountains for (mostly) agricultural use. So, this water never reaches the lake, and it’s been shrinking for decades. But Salt Lake City keeps giving new permits for water uses, like these data centers. As the lake shrinks, the dried lake-bed contains really toxic stuff that swirls around the city during dust storms.

            So add this to the list of water catastrophes in the West, decades in the making and stubbornly left for “later”….hope for divine deliverance is the universal substitute for strategy where Western water is concerned.

            Reply
        2. digi_owl

          Lately i wonder how long before all of them empty warehouses etc ends up being sub-divided into dormitories.

          Reply
  8. Keith in Modesto

    I live in the Great Central Valley of California and worry what will happen here. I don’t think we get any of our water from Lake Mead, but as the Climate Emergency proceeds, there’ll be less and less snowfall and thus less runoff from the Sierra Nevada. And it will only get hotter here (and it is already very hot in the summers). It may not get has bad as quickly as it will in L.A., but eventually many of us will have to leave here, too. And what happens to real estate values, which so many count on for their retirement, when everyone is looking to leave?

    Reply
    1. chris

      We’ll see what happens with real estate valuations but I imagine the first thing we’ll notice is that banks won’t provide mortgages to properties that can’t prove they have access to water for the term of the mortgage.

      I would assume that the value of most residential properties in places like Tucson projected forward 15 years is zero. I’ve told my friends and family that and they say they can’t believe that’s true. But tell me, how much would you for a place to live where you can’t get water? Or where water costs an exorbitant amount of money? And it is unbearably hot for most of the year?

      Reply
      1. Randall Flagg

        That’s an interesting premise re the banks and mortgages and insurance.
        Much like a private property and casualty insurance company won’t go near a flood plain, or flood zone (without a government backstop, if that’s part of it),maybe the insurance market is going to have the final say, and soon, on this problem.

        Reply
  9. eg

    The fate of the American Southwest will be as the closing lines of Shelley’s Ozymandias

    “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

    Reply
  10. rOn cOn cOMa

    They should ask Gov. DeSantis to drain Lake Okeechobee. I’m sure he will trade our Florida water for presidential votes.

    Reply
  11. Valiant Johnson

    I live looking down at the Imperial Valley of Southern California, most likely the worst water wasters in the west.
    The news and editorials from here spend a lot of verbiage about (Original Water Rights) and how these are sacred writs that must be enforced no matter what.
    Bullshit from start to finish.
    If there is no water, you won’t get any water.
    Sorry if you can’t keep your high income status by leasing the land that your Great Grandfather developed to companies that grow alfalfa to send to cattle in China.
    That time is over.
    Like it or not

    Reply
    1. Karl

      Curious notions:

      Water rights = “sacred”
      Property rights = “sacred”

      Sacred implies unconditionality and perpetuity. Unfortunately, angry folks with pitchforks bring land “reform” and water rights “reform”. Michael Hudson refers to Jubilee as an ancient practice for re-balancing the scales so the messy “pitchforks” method isn’t resorted to.

      Besides Jubilee, I’m not sure there is much in Judeo-Christianity on “sacredness” of property, water or other resources vital to life. There are the commandments “Thou Shalt not Steal” and, to paraphrase, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s water rights.” But what all of these commandments actually mean in practice had been pretty flexible when you consider how much outright stealing, coveting, killing etc. there was when the tribe heard the word of their God. When God’s “Word” changes (nowadays, the consensus of a democratic community), everything changes.

      Ultimately pragmatism — i.e. long term social peace — trumps most other objections to change, eventually. Sometimes it takes pitchforks in the short run for that to happen, alas.

      Reply
  12. Lexx

    The migration has already begun and it’s picking up speed. Every time I’m out and about in this city, I’m looking at license plates. Lots of Californians, Arizonians, and Texans are represented in the parking lots. Out-of towners stick out in the grocery store. Locals tend to keep to themselves, newcomers are friendly every chance they get; they’re not just passing through. They want to be accepted and fit in. Mingling in the aisles has become perversely hilarious… it’s like they’re drunk, compared to the sobriety of longtime residents. Who knew buying freezer paper could be so funny?

    They move slowly from the long habit of living with heat. Local Coloradans tend to move quickly (muscularly) with purpose… they’re also clean multi-layer dressers for the out of doors, cuz plenty of water (so far) for clothes washing and showers, and the temperatures here can change rapidly. The new kids on our blocks just look sorta grubby, perhaps outta habit and necessity. They look and sound like homeless people now housed and they’ve just hit the lottery.

    No offense intended… these have been some of my observations of late. Perhaps you’re seeing something of this too, similar or different.

    Reply
    1. B flat

      Californians love to flock to Colorado, understandably, but it is an arid state I believe. A few years ago I read that it was illegal in some places for residents to collect rain water as it belongs to the state?

      Reply
      1. Ranger Rick

        That changed in 2016, a law was passed that authorized up to 110 gallons of rainwater collection per household. That’d be great if we got any rain, but for the most part we get virga, rain that doesn’t touch the ground.

        Reply
      2. Lexx

        It depends on where in Colorado you live. There have been enough rain showers and downpours in the north central part of the state to keep my rain barrel full this summer. That’s probably not true for most gardeners in the rest of Colorado.

        In the Rockies it may still snow in late June, like at the last ‘Blues From the Top’ festival we attended. Every part of the state has its water challenges. Precisely because we have water and green lawns, this year the new/additional challenge is Japanese beetles… devouring the roses. It least we know exactly where to find them.

        Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      In his final years, Abbey lived near Tucson. He was fond of tooling around our town in big ole Cadillac convertible.

      Reply
        1. KLG

          Great story from Doug Peacock, the real George Washington Hayduke, about that. IIRC a piece of basalt is the headstone, chiseled with “No Comment.”

          Reply
  13. John

    Living in the American southwest is problematic if and only if you insist that the desert adapt to your wishes rather than you giving consideration to its limitations. … and even then you may have to move.

    Reply
  14. Tom Stone

    For some reasons these discussions of the US Southwest water situation very seldom mention Mexico.
    There are quite a few people in Mexico’s Federal District which will also become uninhabitable in the next few decades and when millions aregiven the choice of dying in place or moving North…

    Reply
    1. IECG

      In Mexico we are already experiencing a water crisis. Drought is hitting the industrial city of Monterrey and several states are suffering from hydro stress. Water scarcity is not a problem of the future, it is already here.

      The population is very outraged and water has become a priority in public debate. Attention has been drawn to the large corporations that use water in their operations. For example, beer exports to the United States are produced with water extracted from desert areas in the north of the country.

      These are the consequences of giving away the commons to large corporations.

      Reply
  15. Steven

    And then there is all that water we are poisoning with fracking so we can continue to send ‘freedom gas’ to Europe and the rest of the world.

    Reply
  16. B flat

    My parents live in the Coachella Valley and I visit more often as they age. The valley rests on a deep aquifer. If, and only if, the municipalities can avoid overbuilding, the valley should be ok for now. One expects summers to be hot there; more than temperature the big climate change tell is increased humidity. Humidity used to be around 4-6% this season it’s hovered around 28%.
    Transporting water from other states to the SW is unnecessary but lucrative. And more politically do-able than creating new infrastructure for desalination plants on the coasts.

    Reply
  17. Pete

    It is strange that in spite of water storage, Big Tech keeps building data centers in the desert. Amazon and Google have both recently built massive new data centers, which require so much water to cool, in Henderson, NV. Meanwhile grass is disappearing, required by state law.

    Reply
  18. Mikerw0

    Not to be flippant but ‘Denial is not a river in Egypt’ and to quote the late great Sam Kinison “You live in a desert move.”

    There is not\ reason to have ever built large scale population centers in these places. And, as the recent piece in The NY Times points out, Salt Lake City is also inevitably headed to a world of hurt as the lake continues to shrivel.

    I am always astounded when I have visited these places by all the swimming pools, green lawns, golf courses, etc. It makes it hard for me to have sympathies for these cities. And, of course, there is no mega engineering solution that will ameliorate the issue.

    Reply
    1. B flat

      Central air conditioning made the SW livable for the masses. Previously swamp coolers were the norm, and not much help anyway.

      Reply
        1. spud

          that is true. and with soaring energy rates, the south may not look like the paradise its advertised to be, same with the southwest, its a paradise, unless you need water.

          Reply
      1. Tet Vet

        My dad was stationed in Eloy, AZ during WW2 (It was a German and Italian POW camp. At night they would wet their sheets and the swamp cooler breeze would cool them down.

        Reply
      2. MichaelSF

        I grew up in Albuquerque NM in the 60s/70s, and our house had a single swamp cooler. It worked pretty well, due to the low humidity. But if you already live in a swamp (like the NADS) then a swamp cooler won’t do you much good.

        Reply
        1. Pat

          My mother still lived there in the early 2000s. She had a full house swamp cooler. They also had a small window ac in her bedroom. That was for the five or so nights of the year when the swamp cooler just couldn’t cut the heat. Oh and she hated having to turn that ac on, it just cost so much more than her cooler.

          I will also note that hers was an older home. Even in the seventies the homes that were being built were less for the Southwest and more for a totally different climate. Instead of maybe one large window and lots of smaller ones and thicker maybe stucco walls, there were large expanses of glass and siding. A swamp cooler was fine in older homes, it was the newer ones that were hard to heat and needed central air to cool them and most of their yards. It wasn’t about style, it was about suitable building practices for the climate. And once builders were building for easterners, a lot of that suitability got dropped.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            True about the styles of construction being adapted to the climate. The house my parents bought on Miami Beach was from 1927, and had two inch thick, two layer stucco external walls. The wall studs were also true two by fours. Old style two layer internal plaster walls; a support structure of wooden lathes, the first coat was grey plaster, and the top coat was white plaster with quartz grains mixed in for ‘dazzle.’ Fully opening windows with metal shade canopies on all. Passive cooling at it’s best, at least for the North American Deep South.
            The other type of ‘passive’ cooling we encountered in the NADS was a system where the external walls were hollow with openings under the floors, open to the basement, (rare,) or crawl space, (often three to four feet high.) Those air flow spaces had openings at the top of the walls, in the attic space, so that the hotter air at the top of the house created a draft that constantly cooled off the walls of the rooms. That and ten to twelve foot tall inside ceilings with double hung ‘French Windows’ to create a separate room dedicated convectional air flow were standard “beat the heat” strategies for the region.
            People will have to adapt to a lower standard of living now. That includes much less energy usage, which means less active and more passive cooling.
            Welcome back to the Long Hot Summer y’all!

            Reply
  19. Reaville

    Live like the truth is true.

    Remember why the snow used to fall in great quantity and slowly release its water before the Anthropocene era began. Learn why it has stopped falling.

    Then, live like the truth is true.

    Reply
  20. Susan the Other

    Take One Last Look. Tom Waits. It’s not just water. That song is about our entire way of life. Water being the most pressing. And it would make me cry except he reminds us we can always find what we need. That, of course, being sustainable living. Still, it’s pretty sad. The beautiful-beyond-belief great American southwest is going the way of the Anasazi. Which makes me think it isn’t all our own idiocy, our overuse of water, our over consumption of everything – it’s a long term climate trend that is probably made far more serious by CO2 levels. On the one hand we know it probably won’t get better by itself; on the other hand there is always the Mississippi River. But to bring the Mississippi west requires pretty serious planning. I’m not against the idea. We would lessen ocean rise in Louisiana and the Gulf; we could create a water-sink all along the pipeline in various ways – as if it were a natural watershed; we could replenish old aquifers; maintain Lake Powell and Lake Mead so they can continue to produce electricity. We could even manage to supply the water necessary to create a massive geothermal project in Nevada (plenty of magma but not enough water). We could direct enough water to maintain sufficient agriculture. And there could be enough left over to send on to Mexico. It’s not such a bad idea.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      The energy needed to pump the water over the mountains is the problem.
      I have read of ideas to divert the Missouri River to the west, or at least into the watershed of the Ogallala Aquifer.
      the real peril and promise of the Great Western Drought is the collapse of the Western Food Basket. No more almonds from California. No more hay for Arabian horses and cows. No more cheap vegetables from the Inland Empire.
      Some balance of regionalism in food production will have to be reestablished.

      Reply
  21. Matthew G. Saroff

    Desalinization could be powered by wind. You would use intermittent power to pump the sea water up, and then the pressure would produce a freshwater stream, and a very salty stream, on the other end.

    Not sure how you handle the extremely salty waste without damaging the ecosystem.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      Use it to re-flood the great salt pans. Make the Salton Sea a big lake again. Refill Death Valley. Flood the old atomic test sites in Nevada. My favourite is to get boffins from CERN to come over to Stanford and show us how to open a portal to H— and we can send the brine there. Nancy and Hillary will thank us in years to come.

      Reply
  22. MRLost

    In the late 1960s / early 1970s my father, a geologist with the Texas Water Development Board, worked with the Texas branch of US Committee On Large Dams (USCOLD, now the International Commission on Large Dams – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Commission_on_Large_Dams) to examine exactly this problem and propose solutions.
    They identified three sources of water to hydrate the American Southwest including southern California.
    The first was to divert flood water from the Mississippi River, build a canal from that river to the Sabine River (the border between Texas and Louisiana) and build a dam on the Sabine sufficiently large to make the Sabine flow backwards to a point where another canal could be dug to join the Red River (the border between Texas and Oklahoma.) The Red River would be channelized and have locks installed so it could be reversed and, in step-wise fashion, raise this water from the Mississippi to the high plains of the Texas Panhandle. From there the water would be pumped via pipelines over the southern (lower altitude) Rockies until the water could be added to the Colorado River in Arizona. The electrical power for this pumping was to be supplied by a nuclear power complex so large that only the Gulf of Mexico could supply sufficient cooling power.
    The second source of water for the Southwest was Lake Superior. A series of canals and locks would be built extending from that lake ultimately over the Front Range of Colorado and into the Colorado River somewhere west of Denver, likely the Dillon Reservoir. Sections of both the Missouri and Platte Rivers were to be used as channels, but open canals and a large number of locks would have necessary. A tunnel through the mountains, similar to the Eisenhower Tunnel but lower and hence longer, would have been necessary to limit just how high the water would need to be lifted to get it across the Rockies.
    The third source of water was the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington State. This likely would have used the Willamette River to move water south and then pipelines built and tunnels dug to move the water into California’s Imperial Valley. This possible source was rejected early in the analysis because it was deemed that insufficient water was available from the Columbia River and it would have only (and incompletely) supplied California but not Arizona or Nevada.
    A fourth source of water, Canada, was never considered due to Canadian opposition even at this preliminary stage.
    All of these possibilities faced additional difficulties such as each State the water crossed wanting a substantial cut of the water and evaporation from the channels and canals. This is all so long ago it was pre-Global Warming and increased temperatures.

    Reply
    1. Karl

      I do not believe this statement is true:

      …insufficient water was available from the Columbia River

      The Columbia has 10X the annual runoff of the Colorado. Also, the Willamette runs north, not South. You’d need a pipeline downstream from Bonneville dam (the last dam on the mainstem). Technically this does not seem to be a very big deal. We already sell lots of hydro in the form of electricity on the OR-CA Intertie, so why not water?

      I live in Oregon. Oregon and Washington should explore what selling a “Colorado’s” worth (around 10 million acre feet) would be worth to them. We could, conceivably, fund universal health care, quality public education, and much besides, from the proceeds. If the water doesn’t come to thirsty Californians, they’ll come to the water. An exodus of California climate refugees to the Pacific Northwest is not a happy prospect.

      Reply
      1. MRLost

        Yes, presently the Willamette runs south to north but the plan was to use its channel and reverse the river flow just as they intended to do with the Sabine, Red River, Missouri, and Platte. Regarding the required quantities of water, I cannot remember the details of the (merely sketched out) proposals … I was about 14 and it was all a long time ago. I remember only the ideas and some of the anticipated difficulties and one such issue was maintaining sufficient flow in the source river so as to not affect its normal characteristics.

        Reply
      2. tegnost

        I’d rather save the salmon than the southwest, sorry…not sorry…

        https://www.opb.org/article/2022/08/04/bonneville-power-administration-columbia-river-dams-salmon-recovery-spending-tribes/

        There’s not some rainbow solution.
        Why destroy someone else’s ecosystem now that “we’ve” ruined the southwest through over building and poor planning.
        Over the past several years the fish have stopped in lower pools and won’t advance as the water is too hot. Instead of tearing down the dams we’re telling everyone to go electric like thats some kind magical solution but it’s not.There’s way less water here also. Desalination is another “great idea” if you ignore all the reasons it’s not (energy intensive, we haven’t discovered the perpetual motion machine yet, and desal plants put extra salty water back in the water it came from messing with yet another critical ecosystem.)
        How much wetlands restoration is in that bill? Did you say “none”? Of course giant data centers need giant flat spaces that used to be wetlands. Listen to me here and now. Dems do not eff with amagoner and goofle. Bezos is a dem. Gates is a dem. I’m not a dem anymore. Oh, and I see the bills supposedly a done deal so as usual we get one day to say hey this is a lousy deal, while the grifters have had lots of time for their money to talk for them.
        I hate the dems more and more every day.
        Did I mention lately that I voted for Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton twice, Gore, Kerry and Obama once. Hell no I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, the ukraine war would have started 5 years sooner if she had won, and no doubt the TPP would have gone through just as easily as this grifters meal ticket masquerading as a “Climate Action!” which is yet another lie piled on a lie piled on a lie as always. I voted for biden because I was sick of listening to dems whining like babies about trump and so why not help the dems enact all of their insanity and lying BS and then let them be stuck with the butchers bill for the ensuing carnage of the crash they seem to so desperately want, and I have not been disappointed. The dems are absolutely crashing it.
        If you want to dig the hole deeper I’ll hand you a shovel. But no band aids (which is what all these crazy ideas are). I say let it bleed.

        Reply
  23. Revenant

    Can somebody explain why Mississippi water cannot be piped to the SW? Surely it just requires pumping energy and/or tunnels? The entire system could act as a massive pumped storage battery for SW renewable energy production. It would involve a lot of capex but it seems more realistic than talk of radical degrowth and leaving the SW to the pueblo Indians.

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      St Louis is 450-ish feet above sea level. Phoenix is 1000+ feet above sea level.

      1200+ miles from St Louis to Phoenix, then drill up 500+ feet. (and StL is in an earthquake-fault zone)

      Apples to oranges, but I seem to call that NYC’s new 2nd Avenue subway cost something like $1 billion per mile.

      Reply
  24. Taurus

    I just want to point out that people have to disembark the train from Burlington to NYC to go around a crumbling building. Fixing this problem is much more manageable than diverting the Mississippi over the Continental Divide. And yet we – as a society – are unable to deal with this. The examples are all around us – Flint, MI; Whitesburg, KY; you name it.

    Chances are better that it starts raining in the Southwest than this epic scale engineering project comes to fruition.

    Reply
  25. Michael.j

    While the local effects of the altered climate are physically evident in the SW water supply, the cause is evident by looking at NOAA’s 7day map loop and noticing the persistent high pressure cell that is parked over the area.

    This high is so powerful that is evident up to 32,000 feet on earth.nullschool.net. This high in general does not move and supplies dry hot weather for much of the country including the grain belt in the Midwest. It was prevalent last year and caused the much of the poor farm yields. If nothing is done IM non-scientific opinion it will strengthen over time and could threaten our own survival.

    I would appreciate it if a climate scientist would chime in at this point.

    Reply
  26. Clark Landwehr

    John Wesley Powell warned that the Southwest could never support large populations in the late 1860’s. It was obvious. The Southwest was always doomed. The Federal Government is responsible for building the massive water projects that made suburban life in a fragile desert possible and then BLM practically gave the water away for decades, drawing in the suckers in droves. It was always a Ponzi scheme.

    Reply
  27. Anthony G Stegman

    Jerry’s Twin Tunnels (now Gavin’s Single Tunnel) will solve much of the water shortage problem. There will be plenty of water for almonds and housing subdivisions. Not to mention golf courses and surf lakes.

    Reply
  28. Anthony G Stegman

    It’s a truism that water flows towards money. Poor communities in the Southwest may suffer from water shortages, but Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and the like will at worst be mildly inconvenienced. Massive new water projects will be built, relying on a significant amount of federal funding which will be made available as part of the political process. This means more dams, more reservoirs, more pipelines and aqueducts, a smattering of desalinization plants, and a fair amount of legalized theft. California provides the model for how it’s done.

    Reply

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