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Hey, buddy, can you spare some water?

You can add "conflicts over water" to the list of resource driven conflicts to expect in the future. And it won't be just country vs. country. At least here in the U.S., it will be state vs. state. According to "The Future is Drying Up", the cover piece from this past Sunday's New York Times magazine, sufficient access to water in the American West is a problem now, and one that will get very serious very soon. Here's a choice quote:

An even darker possibility is that a Western drought caused by climatic variation and a drought caused by global warming could arrive at the same time. Or perhaps they already have. This coming spring, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will issue a report identifying areas of the world most at risk of droughts and floods as the earth warms. Fresh-water shortages are already a global concern, especially in China, India and Africa. But the I.P.C.C., which along with Al Gore received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month for its work on global-warming issues, will note that many problem zones are located within the United States, including California (where the Sierra Nevada snowpack is threatened) and the Colorado River basin. These assessments follow on the heels of a number of recent studies that analyze mountain snowpack and future Colorado River flows. Almost without exception, recent climate models envision reductions that range from the modest to the catastrophic by the second half of this century. One study in particular, by Martin Hoerling and Jon Eischeid, suggests the region is already "past peak water," a milestone that means the river's water supply will now forever trend downward.

So the Western states, with their growing populations, are facing a significant decrease in potable water. And 90% of water in those states is used for agricultural purposes. Something will have to give.


As a citizen of a Great Lakes state, I'll fight tooth and nail to make sure none of our water is diverted to those Western states. They've been living off government largess for decades, and I don't see why the hardworking people of the midwest and east should subsidize their stupidity. Bill Richards is a fool if he thinks Wisconsin will start diverting water to New Mexico. I agree with this Grand Rapids Press editorial, "Back away from the water":

As population grows in dry parts of the country, the Great Lakes look more and more like liquid gold to those populous and arid parts of the United States.

Michigan can combat that threat by joining with other states to protect the lakes. The state Legislature is scheduled next week to hold hearings on a multi-state water protection compact. The compact would require greater water conservation, tighten regulations on the use of Great Lakes water and prevent most new diversions.

Lawmakers should pass that agreement, known as Annex 2001, which is fully supported by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Ms. Granholm's response to Mr. Richardson's water grab idea -- "Hell, no" -- was eloquent in its force and concision. But more than that is needed to stave off would-be lake looters.

And the drying out of the American West is why a New York Times editorial entitled "Let the East Bloom Again" argues that:

Returning agricultural production to the Eastern United States under irrigation would be efficient and environmentally sound. In the West, at least three to four feet of water per acre is needed every year to produce a good crop. In the East, only a few inches of irrigated water per acre are needed, because of the region's heavier rainfall. Even in a dry year for the East, about a foot of water per acre will suffice.

So why not let the West return to desert? It was desert before the huge irrigation and dam projects of the mid 20th century, and continuing to subsidize agriculture in the West is a bad idea in so many ways. And aren't they all rugged individualists out there, who disdain the interference of government anyway? They should start pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and stop relying on handouts from the federal government.


Bear in mind that the Great Lakes themselves might be in danger. The water level of Lake Superior is down significantly because drier conditions have translated into less springtime snow melt in the region and warmer temperatures have meant less ice in the winter, so more water evaporates.

Of course, the Republicans would view the desruction of the Great Lakes as a tremendous opportunity - time to invest in companies that make pipes and water bottles...

Absolutely right, Jude. There are lots of threats to the Great Lakes, like the one you mention, which is just further reason for stopping corporate monkeys like Nestle from bottling up our water and selling it to dumb ass Americans who have been suckered into believing it makes sense to buy bottled water.

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