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Who Comes to America's Aid When the West Runs out of Water?

According to a recent article by the UK Telegraph, Las Vegas, NV is in great peril of drying up from all its water usage of the Colorado River. A very informative rebuttal has been posted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Las Vegas is doing a very good job at using less water. Only 2% of total appropriations from the Colorado River is being used by Las Vegans and only three quarters of this is being used for consumptive use. Consumptive use is water used outdoors which may be evaporated and not reused. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Pheonix, and Tuscon combined account for twenty percent total water usage of the Colorado River.

A snapshot of the Rocky Mountains from the base in Colorado.
A snapshot of the Rocky Mountains from the base in Colorado.
photo by Thomas Stark: The Rocky Mountains with spray of birds in Palisade, CO
Fruita, Colorado foothills
photo by Thomas Stark of foothills in Fruita, Colorado

To understand more about how water works in Las Vegas, visit the Clark County Wetlands Park. Visiting in person is best to fully grasp how things work in the valley. The Las Vegas Valley is built in a basin. Gravity pulls all the treated water from the Clark County Water Reclamation going from homes and businesses into the Wetlands, which acts a natural filter, before going back for reuse into Lake Mead. For a full virtual tour of the Clark County Water Reclamation plant, click here. The wetlands also known as the Las Vegas Wash act as the kidneys for excess water along its 12 mile long channel. All fertilizers, oil, and other contaminants are pulled into the roots of plants in the wash. For anyone wanting to volunteer, the Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee is having their annual Fall Green Up on Saturday October 4th.

What does any of this have to do with the Rockies? Snow melt from the western Rockies forms the Colorado River. The Rockies are the lifeforce which support all the communities going down the flowing Colorado River among other communities from waters of the Rockies. The Winter of 2014 saw a large snow pack in the Rockies. Lake Mead saw a large decrease in water level, again.

The Business of Water Summit was held last week Aug 29 and Aug 30 2014. U.S. Senator Harry Reid quoted Benjamin Franklin about knowing the worth of water when the well runs dry. Reid said during the conference, "We understand the well may not be dry, but it's going dry. The water situation in these states is perilous. Lake Mead is at its lowest level ever. We're all fighting to keep that well from going dry." Is there a decades long megadrought on the way for the West? There are a lot of regulations and more policies being adopted for water conservation and water usage in the drought stricken Great Basin. The farms need the water for the economy and get priority to water usage. Mexico and Indian Reservations have water rights to the Colorado River. The water basin serves Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California as well. At the Summit, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Anne Castle stated that most people understand that there is a drought but most don't understand the interwoven nature of water rights. The Colorado River Compact was written in 1922. At present status there is an annual snow pack of 15 million acre-feet rainfall and snowmelt a year for the Colorado River. Two average Las Vegas households use 1 acre-foot of water annually. 16.5 million acre-feet are promised to various entities. We are short by 1.5 million acre-feet.

The desert communities of the American Southwest stand as a model for the world in water conservation and usage. Farming is important to America. We all need food on the table. The Imperial Valley of California is the most productive farming region in America. Next in production is the San Joaquin Valley which is hopping mad because of drought conditions. Currently, driving up I-5 or Hwy 99 in the San Joaquin Valley (almost 500 miles north of Imperial Valley) one can see road signs put up by Families Protecting the Valley declaring "Man-made Drought" or "Congress-created dust bowl." Other signs along the hwy cut right to the chase and say "Farm Water Cut: 50% in 2010, 40% in 2009, and 65% in 2008 = Higher Food Costs!" In plain view behind the signs is the water coming in from Northern California through the California Aqueduct bypassing completely the San Joaquin Valley and going in direct route to L.A. Can America sustain it's current status as being breadbasket to the world? America gives time and again. Maybe with new ways to approach trust, America can allow some others to act as humanitarians. Real humanitarian aid is needed, not just politics, to give the West a break to repair its domestic infrastructure. By working together rather than apart, maybe some new goals can be formed. Talks about population control could possibly begin again, like what was discussed in the 1970's. Is there a pink elephant in the room? No one wants the problem of the lily pond. In the lily pond problem about exponential growth, by day nine 50% of the pond is overgrown with lily pads. By day ten, just one day later the entire pond is 100% overgrown with lily pads and all life in the pond is choked.

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