Aug 21 2014
Water-The Third Rail Part XXVIII-“Got Water?”
At an 1893 Irrigation Congress in Los Angeles, after listening for several
days to those who proclaimed the vast wealth of an irrigated West, [John
Wesley Powell] rose to speak, saying: When all of the rivers are used, when
all of the creeks in the ravines, when all the brooks, when all the springs
are used, when all the reservoirs along the streams are used, when all the
canyon waters are taken up, when all the artesian waters are taken up, when
all the wells are sunk or dug that can be dug in all this arid region, there
is still not sufficient water to irrigate all this arid region.
It was merely simple arithmetic, he said.
If you need twenty-four inches of water a year to grow crops on an
acre-foot of land, and Nature supplies three, four, or five inches of
rainfall, even if you catch every drop it will not be nearly enough. QuotedJohn Wesley Powell, the first chief of the US Geological Survey,understood the problem, but 121 years later the water policy makers andimplementers in California still don’t get it. “..when all the wells aresunk or dug that can be dug in all this arid region, there is still notsufficient water to irrigate all this arid region” is the topic in theAugust 12, 2014 Washington Post: “West’s historic drought stokes fears of water crisis”.
California voters will be asked to approve a $7.5 billion
dollar water bond issue in November that does little to add new water using
potable recycling and desalination. In the twisted thinking of the political
leadership, storage and environmental concerns take precedence. Repeating
the title of a previous blog quoted from a Tom Hanks movie, “Stupid is as
Stupid Does”. And California voters who suffer from attention deficit
disorder will mark their ballots “Yes”, without the slightest hesitation.
There is always the potential for a strong El Nino to come roaring
into the West in 2015, so the leadership will smugly say, “we told you so”.
But is that good public water policy? The word is out from scientists who
study ocean currents, etc. and hydrologic history, the 21st century is a
“dry century” that has followed a “wet century”. When the current political
leadership is gone and forgotten, the specter of a multi-year drought will
still be with us, with no more water security than we have now unless there
is a miracle that will cause real solutions to make Southern California
water independent. Orange County has figured it out, why not San Diego and
Los Angeles? But that’s for another blog. Got water?
About Alumni at the University of Montana