Water in the American West – Supply-Side Management

Climate models predict a continuation of the trends we’ve been seeing in many countries:  heat waves happening more often and more intensely, longer and more severe droughts owing to decreased precipitation, wildfires as a consequence of long-term dry spells, and water stress for both urban and rural populations as well as for agriculture.  Nowhere are these trends more in evidence than in the American West.  The extraordinary engineering that has gone into making the West prosperous is at risk.  (I blogged about the landmark history of water policy and politics in the West, Cadillac Desert, here in September.) Continue reading

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Water in the American West – Demand-Side Management

I wrote about Cadillac Desert, the classic book about water in the American West, in September.  Scores of millions of people depend on the waterworks that were built up over the 20th Century there, and many millions more benefit from the bounty of fruits and vegetables that grow there, much of it in California, where agriculture accounts for 80% of overall use.  The story of Cadillac Desert, though, is that there has been a tremendous price paid for all that concrete, steel, energy, and the treasure needed to build and operate the waterworks.  Environmental destruction has been catastrophic, lives were lost when dams broke, thousands of small farmers and their communities were destituted because the water too often benefited Big Ag, and the American taxpayer was bilked out of billions over time. Continue reading

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