The Long Dry Season

This is very troubling:

After enduring last summer’s destructive drought, farmers, ranchers and officials across the country’s parched heartland had hoped that plentiful winter snows would replenish the ground and refill their rivers, breaking the grip of one of the worst dry spells in American history. No such luck.

Across the West, lakes are half full and mountain snows are thin, omens of another summer of drought and wildfire. Complicating matters, many of the worst-hit states now have even less water on hand than a year ago, raising the specter of shortages and rationing that could inflict another year of losses on struggling farms.

Reservoir levels have fallen sharply in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. The soil is drier than normal. And while a few recent snowstorms have cheered skiers, the snowpack is so thin in parts of Colorado that the government has declared an “extreme drought” around the ski havens of Vail and Aspen.

“We’re worse off than we were a year ago,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center.

There really isn’t much they can do if there is no snow, is there? Other than start rationing earlier in the year, I guess. Food prices are going to go through the roof.

151 replies
  1. 1
    Tuffy says:

    27% alert:

    Sparrows and curtain rods.

  2. 2
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    Vail undergoing a winter “extreme drought”? That’s troubling. The microclimate in Vail is one reason why the skiing there is generally better than the rest of the state: they get regular snow when everybody else doesn’t.

    First this, next up, Soylent Green.

  3. 3

    I blame science for not helping us solve the climate change problem that they invented for the purpose of becoming rich off of sweet government grant money.

    It’s funny because seriously, we’re all probably going to die slowly while watching our loved ones do likewise, while the people who did the most to contribute the problem survive in nice little bunkers or biodomes or some shit.

    No. Wait. That’s the opposite of funny. I need several drinks.

  4. 4

    I would redraw the state boundaries of the american west into watersheds and start pricing to reflect scarcity. People would freak out with the pricing but today’s pricing is artificially low.

  5. 5
    Roger Moore says:

    start rationing earlier in the year, I guess.

    And go with stricter rationing. If the Southwest really wants to get serious about combating drought, we’re going to need to ban grass except possibly for public parks and athletic fields. It’s incredibly wasteful, and xeriscaping can be at least as beautiful.

  6. 6

    @Roger Moore: Denver has a good program for xeriscape tax credits. People just love their lawns. You can still have a lawn with native grasses. It just won’t be like the lush kentucky bluegrass that people desire.

  7. 7
    Boots Day says:

    People in Colorado take global warming very seriously. I’ve lived here less than ten years, but I can see the ski seasons getting shorter, and the snow during ski season getting thinner, almost every year.

  8. 8
    cathyx says:

    Real life is starting to look a lot like those bleak futuristic movies.

  9. 9
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    This would be a good summer to visit the ruins at Mesa Verde.

    To see what the future looks like.

    The southwestern US has a long history of sucker-punching civilizations that couldn’t survive multi-decadal droughts. Throw in global warming on top of that, and it doesn’t look good.

  10. 10
    PeakVT says:

    Drought map.

    While the direct corn ethanol subsidies have gone away, the blend requirement is effectively the same thing without the government middleman. Depending on the corn crop outlook, the requirement should be lowered or eliminated. Politics will almost certainly prevent it from happening.

  11. 11

    related: a 1.5 (C) degree increase will set off a “cabon bomb” when the permafrost melts in siberia. Good times.

  12. 12
    JPL says:

    @Tuffy: How many attended the republican convention with their fingers painted purple. Let them vote in Iraq!

    edit.. also, too it is snowing somewhere and al gore is fat

  13. 13
    Mudge says:

    Used to be massive infrastructure projects took water from where it was to where it wasn’t. Sounds like water isn’t where it was anymore. The new dustbowl.

    The Keystone XL pipeline should pump water, not oil.

  14. 14
    jl says:

    @Boots Day:

    Enjoy the snow while you can. I read a long run forecast for a year round snowless Sierra Nevada range in 50 years. The ski resort operators here are believers.

    CA is not hit so hard, and may only have a dry year. I just checked and the northern half of the state is 65 to 70 percent normal water-year rainfall. But only 50 to 60 percent normal Sierra snow pack.

    We need another 10 to 15 inches of both in March and April.

    Edit: oops. Statewide summary says 70 percent of normal year snowpack water content. I guess I misread the chart.

  15. 15
    waynski says:

    Clearly, this is Obama’s fault. Should solve the border control problem though when a bunch of angry old shitbags die of thirst. Not good news for John McCain.

  16. 16
    Ted & Hellen says:

    But what is awesome is how the Obama administration, led by its selectively eloquent leader, has been pounding home Global Warming as an absolutely critical danger and an urgent matter to address, ever since taking office four years ago…

    …oh wait.

    Never mind.

  17. 17
    Redshirt says:

    Gosh, I hope Arizona doesn’t need to get any Federal assistance in dealing with the consequences of the drought!

  18. 18
    General Stuck says:

    It’s been a very dry winter here in the southern nm crispy critter zone. Very little snow, and about no rain. It looks like an el nina year again. But though it has been dry the past two summers, here at least, it hasn’t been exceptionally hot. Like 110 or so that it can get to be.

  19. 19

    On topic pie filter!?

    Ted & Hellen Says:

    Global warming is the result of millions of righteous bakers baking millions of delicious pies for the blessed to eat as they await the coming of the lord.

  20. 20
    maya says:

    Acme Water Witches will be the new American franchise growth industry.

  21. 21
    General Stuck says:


    Looks like the great plains is toast for dryness.

  22. 22
    General Stuck says:


    Global warming is the result of millions of righteous bakers baking millions of delicious pies for the blessed to eat as they await the coming of the lord.

    LOL, nice

  23. 23
    Cassidy says:

    If only Obama would do what those white, suburbanite pure liberals tell him…everything wold be okay.

  24. 24
    Roger Moore says:


    I would redraw the state boundaries of the american west into watersheds and start pricing to reflect scarcity.

    Redrawing state boundaries is a terrible idea for two reasons. One is that a lot of the water is already promised outside of its natural watershed, so this approach will either not do much to solve the problem or screw over people who will suddenly be denied the water they’re promised. The other, related issue is that the watersheds vary tremendously in size. The Colorado has a watershed of over 260,000 square miles, while the LA river has a watershed of under 1000 (and a population that isn’t much less).

    I agree that some kind of market pricing would be a good idea, but again, it makes a lot more sense if you let people sell their water outside the watershed. That way people who really need it and will be able to make good economic use of it will be able to buy it from anywhere.

  25. 25
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    Brian Fuchs is a climatologist, so what does he know?


  26. 26
    jl says:

    BTW, the data for this year are consistent with some regional forecasts for western US I saw several years ago. Hotter and dryer for Great Basin right away. Slightly lower average, but steadily rising minimum, temps for Pacific Coast. longer spells of slightly to moderately below normal rain and snow, with fewer, progressively rarer very wet years for Pacific Coast.

  27. 27
    Comrade Colette Collaboratrice says:

    From Digby’s place, the most terrifying graph you will see all year. Or century, for that matter.

  28. 28
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    Clearly, people aren’t praying hard enough for rain.

  29. 29
    FlipYrWhig says:

    I like how someone whose favorite insult is “bot” has basically become an auto-posting machine set to “Obama bad, no say [$ISSUE] important.”

  30. 30
    General Stuck says:


    If only obama would do what those white, suburbanite pure liberals tell him…everything wold be okay.

    He’s too busy dropping austerity bombs on sacred cows of the prog military.

  31. 31
    balconesfault says:

    Think that’s bad? Just see how they feel when their water is all captured by oil companies for well fracking.

  32. 32

    @Roger Moore: I have no problem with transferring/exchanging outside of the watershed. Why can’t we do both the pricing and allow that?

    Redrawing the state boundaries isn’t a real policy idea, it is just a pipe dream and a hobby horse of mine. In a vacuum, it would be much easier to manage the commodity when the states are drawn in the largest watersheds possible. Since water is the most important resource in the west, it should drive things. But I dare to dream. For the record I’d like to go back and undo the Brits’ boundaries in the middle east as well.

    Like Mr. Twain said after spending some time out west, “Whisky is for drinking, water is for fighting over”.

  33. 33
    Cassidy says:

    @General Stuck: I thought he was too busy being black for our liberal betters.

  34. 34
    Mark S. says:

    This is interesting and all, but shouldn’t we be talking about more important things like who the next Republican savior is going to be?

  35. 35
    Disco says:

    “Food prices are going to go through the roof.”

    You already need a telescope to see the food prices around here. I was just at the grocery store yesterday to pick up a few things. Well, few things here, few things there, BAM, $35.

    A few weeks ago we did a big shop. Came home with three average-sized bags of food. $90. Fuck me.

  36. 36
    Geoduck says:

    God obviously approves of us in Washington State legalizing pot and gay marriage; our snowpacks, while not overflowing, are within normal ranges. (Looks out the window at driving rain..)

  37. 37
    General Stuck says:

    Serious reduction in the world’s production of greenhouse gases, ain’t gonna happen folks. We might as well try an catch the wind. The gawds of commerce won’t allow it, and is planning to make a bundle on coconut oil and cheap sunglasses..

  38. 38
    Cassidy says:

    @General Stuck: I guess it’s a good thing I invested a few points into some outdoorsy skills. Really tanked my charisma, though.

  39. 39
    Redshirt says:

    When the affects of climate change become too obvious to ignore and the shit truly hits the fan, I look forward to Republicans of that day blaming Liberals for allowing it to happen. I can already see the WAPO headline for 2050 – “Republicans blame Democrats for destruction of Florida”.

  40. 40
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    We know what the American West’s carrying capacity was, because we have the population figures for most of the cities before we figured out how to plunder the Colorado and steal most of the water out of the Sacramento Delta. I know California’s the best as I was born here. The numbers are cold, hard and do not lie.

    There are over 24 million people in the Los Angeles area right now.

    Pre-irrigation, that number was 10,000.

    San Diego actually has slightly more water resources than Los Angeles, but still, you’re not going to support more than about 30,000 folks in the county – a county that at the moment has almost 5 million people living in it.

    Where are they all going to go?

    And I see we have one Obama-bashing global climate change whiner here already. You can pin a lot on manmade climate change, but not this imminent catastrophe. Why? Well, here’s the other brutal fact: the last 500 years in the American Southwest have been the wettest since the end of the last Ice Age. “Normal” here is no rain, no snow, no water. And no people.

    Get ready for 45 million water refugees fleeing the West sometime in the next fifty years. That’s not a prediction. That’s an inevitability. You can point at “70% normal snowpack” all you want. History says that’s an outlier that ought not to exist.

    History ain’t lying, folks. 50 years. Bank on it.

  41. 41

    @General Stuck: Rarely is the question asked, is our pie filter learning?

    All signs point to yes.

  42. 42
    patroclus says:

    Kansas just got 2 feet of snow and here in Chicago, we just got our biggest snowfall in two years (6 inches). The weather people were saying that this is excellent news but that we need another storm every week or so for the next two months to have a significant effect on the drought.

  43. 43

    @Forum Transmitted Disease: This makes me want to re-read Cadillac Desert. Well put.

  44. 44
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    Brian Fuchs is a climatologist, so what does he know?

    Unskew the dew!

  45. 45

    @Cassidy: Won’t help much if there ain’t anything left to hunt.

  46. 46
    Cassidy says:

    @Comrade Dread: Nature finds a way. We’re fucked.

  47. 47
    Arm The Homeless says:

    I expect a water war between Canada and Michigan when the legislature sells water rights to many of the states in the southwest.

    In the meantime, enjoy desertification, Sun Belt.

  48. 48
    Jack the Second says:

    We can’t be having global warming, there’s like two feet of snow on the east coast. How do you explain that, Al Gore?

  49. 49
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice:

    The central problem with addressing climate change can be understood by considering the following thought experiment:

    Would you do something today that would allow you to become a multimillionaire immediately but which would most likely result in billions of people you don’t know dying in misery fifty or so years from how?

    From that question, two facts can be derived. (1) Only a complete sociopath would answer “yes” to that question. (2) Due to the structure of our socio-economic system, only sociopaths will ever be in a position to answer that question with real world results.

  50. 50
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @Cassidy: I tanked Charisma *and* Survival isn’t a class skill for me. Fucking wizards.

  51. 51
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Just let Arizona turn back into an uninhabited desert instead of wasting water there.

    Fuck Arizona.

  52. 52
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    I’m just going to wok my neighbor’s forever-barking dog.

  53. 53
    Mnemosyne says:


    We’re pretty much always on drought alert here in Southern California, but that patch of “moderate drought” by the coast is pretty worrisome because that’s where a lot of the produce is grown, which means they’ll be pulling water from the rest of the state so the rest of the country can have strawberries and soybeans.

  54. 54
    Trollhattan says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    Ag still consumes circa 80% of California’s water and if 1. they’d all use efficient irrigation methods 2. stop raising water-intensive crops and 3. make them pay actual cost for federal water we’ll have plenty of municipal water whatever the population does.

    And yeah, this winter started out great in December and we’ve had near-record dry January and February to reverse that early trend. All after a severely dry 2012 water year.

  55. 55
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    This makes me want to re-read Cadillac Desert. Well put.

    @ranchandsyrup: A fantastic book. He knew this was coming back in what, 1989? Think that’s when I first read it.

  56. 56
    Nunya says:

    I can attest to the food prices thing. Our little food manufacturing company is seeing commodity ingredient price increases as high as 24% for 2013. Just got out of a meeting with another of our suppliers who is bumping our price by 7.4%, and that’s one of the smaller increases. We haven’t raised our own prices in about five years, but we had to this year because our margins have become dangerously scant.

  57. 57
    Jay in Oregon says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice:
    For the fundie evangelical whackjobs, that means they get to go live with Jesus while the rest of us burn (metaphorically, if not literally). Win-win for them.

    No word on whether He will raise concerns about being good stewards of the Earth…

  58. 58

    @Forum Transmitted Disease: Too bad Reisner ended up on the dark side at the end, but I understood his motivation ($$)

  59. 59
    Mike in NC says:

    Clearly the solution to the water problem is MORE GUNS!

  60. 60
    Robin G. says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice: It’s just proof that Jesus is on his way!

  61. 61
    Roger Moore says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    There are over 24 million people in the Los Angeles area right now.

    Pre-irrigation, that number was 10,000.

    A) the first figure is not correct. The Census has the LA CMSA at about 18 million. Even if you add San Diego, you can’t get to 24 million.

    B) The 10,000 population isn’t necessarily anywhere close to the capacity under modern conditions. The city of LA- not the whole area- had a population over 10,000 as long ago as 1880, which is well before they were importing water. And that 10,000 figure was for people producing all their own food locally, while today we can import most of our food from areas that get more water. As long as people conserve carefully, there should be enough local water for the current population of the LA area.

  62. 62
    Chyron HR says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Poor Tim, he couldn’t get his patented “Good thing the President’s not a stupid Nig… OH WAIT HE IS LOL” post in before someone pre-emptively made fun of him for it.

    I predict “Hellen” will be accidentally falling down the stairs again tonight.

  63. 63
    jonas says:

    @ranchandsyrup: actually, that was done to a certain extent back in the 30s and 40s when water compacts were drawn up among the western states that drew from the Colorado watershed, esp. California, Nevada and Arizona. Problem is, hydrologists and climatologists back then forecasted huge snowpacks and good rainfall forever — plenty of water and cheap land for everyone!

    Now they’re saying the Colorado River is going to be more like the Colorado Creek going into the next century. So many people are soooooo screwed.

  64. 64
    RaflW says:

    The f’d up denier cult will sieze upon last night’s Kansas snowstorm to say “see, its a hoax.”

    Because what the hell is science anyway.

  65. 65

    @jonas: Yeah, the Co. River compact is based on really bad data. Plus, Mexico was shorted for a long time. They finally sewed that up last year or the year before, more or less. Mexico could have called and demanded their allocation which would have been mayhem.

  66. 66
    Trollhattan says:


    Science is a long-con in which they all lie like their paymasters expect in order to obtain Giant Grants that make themselves Rich Rich Rich!

    Also, too, New World Order.


  67. 67
    shortstop says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Our former downstairs neighbors were two crackers from Aryantown, I mean Germantown, TN, who used to call the cops every time they saw a black person in the parking lot. They recently built a house in Prescott, AZ, so they could get away from the “urban element” here in Chicago. My husband I felt this was a good fit.

    Anyway, I asked one of them if she was concerned about moving to a state in which the coming water wars are going to be hideous. “Oh, no, we picked a landscaper who uses only desert plants!” she chirped.

    I mentioned that there were a few other water concerns outside of yard plantings. “Like what?” she said, genuinely bewildered.

  68. 68
    raven says:

    Forget it John, it’s Chinatown.

  69. 69
    cmorenc says:

    Las Vegas. Lavish founains. Lush golf courses. Water usage in excess of what local area acquifer plus aliquot draw from Colorado River will sustain long-term.

    How will this situation evolve? If I was anywhere in the northern Great Basin, e.g. a rancher with currently sufficient water rights, I’d be getting nervous.

  70. 70
    PeakVT says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease: Get ready for 45 million water refugees fleeing the West sometime in the next fifty years. That’s not a prediction. That’s an inevitability.

    I think that’s a bit over the top. There will be water to be had, and it will go to municipal users because ultimately that’s where the votes are. However, a lot of people will come to regard their water bill with the same dread and contempt that they currently reserve for their cable bill. Ag will be squeezed out of a lot of areas, except for crops that are amenable to drip irrigation or the like. So will water-intensive industry, unless it can make direct use of treated municipal outflow.

  71. 71
    raven says:

    That water is “bad for the glass”.

  72. 72
    Ted & Hellen says:


    If only Obama would do what those white, suburbanite pure liberals tell him…everything wold be okay.

    Oh, I don’t know about that, but it would be great if he would do something, or had done something, about Global Warming in the last four years. Yeah, THAT would be wonderful.

    But you’re right, I’m sure he doesn’t “have the votes in the Congress…” so, you know…

  73. 73
    shortstop says:

    @ranchandsyrup: @Forum Transmitted Disease: Also this tremendous book (I know I bring it up every time we have a water conversation here).

  74. 74
    scav says:

    If this was Chicago’s best snowfall in two years, we’re really not doing well.This would have managed a decent rating when growing up in So Cal but in the ORD-shed not LAX-shed? Help.

  75. 75

    @shortstop: LOL Aryantown. Totally fits the people I know from there. They all say, “You’d be racist too if you lived in Memphis!” One of them went to great lengths to show me around to the bad parts so that I may be as disgusted as him. Didn’t take.

    Prescott (pronounced like “biscuit”) is a lovely little corner of backwoods AZ. But they still have water supply problems, as you surmised. The Central Az Project was a debacle.

  76. 76
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice:

    Digby is considered personae non grata here.

    Too something, something…

  77. 77
    mai naem says:

    @Bubblegum Tate: Hey, I am in Arizona. Jeez, just because we point out that Al Gore is still fat does not mean that we need to be obliterated off the map. Also too, we got snow on Tuesday – in Phoenix. Actual Phoenix, not just the mountains around Phoenix.

    Anyhow, several years ago, I heard some reported from I believe the Wash Post who had written a book about water and the west. I don’t think it was Cadillac Desert. Anyway, what I still remember him saying was that Vegas was going to have to abandoned because of water issues. He said not only was it because of water for hydration but also that Hoover Dam producing electricity for Vegas was going to be an issue.

  78. 78
    wasabi gasp says:

    Toasting those survival seeds was not in the plans.

  79. 79
    Ted & Hellen says:


    I thought he was too busy being black for our liberal betters.

    So you’re saying Obama hasn’t lifted a finger regarding Global Warming because he’s black?

    I don’t know…sounds racist.

  80. 80
    shortstop says:

    @scav: I know. It’s so worrisome I’ve stopped complaining about snow altogether. And that is quite a change of habit for me.

  81. 81

    @shortstop: Love that book! Powell was a badass. It is unfortunate that Lake Powell is the most recognizable portion of his legacy. I have enjoyed my times on that lake, but I know that under all of that water, there are natural treasures that should not have been lost.

  82. 82
    Ted & Hellen says:


    How will you argue against that when Obama has proposed/done almost nothing about it in four years?

  83. 83
    shortstop says:

    @ranchandsyrup: I hope you at least got some good barbecue out of it.

  84. 84
    NCSteve says:

    @cathyx: About ten years ago, I saw “Soylent Green” for the first time since the late 70s. And somehow a movie that had seemed like hokey, overwrought, preachy fun when I was a kid left my stomach in knots.

  85. 85
    catclub says:

    @ranchandsyrup: “american west into watersheds and start pricing to reflect scarcity”

    Yep. The rivers and fractions of them were divided up during a period of particularly high precipitation. Remember the 1927 Flood?

  86. 86
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    And I see we have one Obama-bashing global climate change whiner here already. You can pin a lot on manmade climate change, but not this imminent catastrophe.

    You might want to use your eyes and brain to note that I have not blamed Obama for the catastrophe, but for doing zilch to make it an urgent priority during his four years in office.

  87. 87

    @shortstop: I did! Also, Huey burgers.

  88. 88
    Fair Economist says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    There are over 24 million people in the Los Angeles area right now.
    Pre-irrigation, that number was 10,000.

    That’s totally irrelevant. Orange County (population 3 million) gets half its water locally. Ditch the lawns and nobody here would have to leave even on only local water. Plus, the Colorado River/Eastern Sierra/Sacramento Delta will have less water, not no water, in the future. LA County is more dependent on imported water, but even so you’re not going to see water refugees from California (or really anywhere else in the West, for that matter). It’s agriculture that will get smacked around if we see the projected drops in rainfall and snowfall.

  89. 89

    @catclub: Yup. Jonas was discussing that above. Also, too, how we use water is different from back then. Vegas was tiny, for example

  90. 90

    Any similarity to the scenarios depicted in “Mad Max” is purely … AW FUCK….

  91. 91
    Arclite says:

    At least I’m staying warm this winter.

    *throws a dozen shovelfuls of coal into the furnace*

  92. 92
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @Mudge: Like flying fuck it should. You folks can keep your hands off our watersheds.

  93. 93
    Cermet says:

    Well, a lot of farmers in the West (this excludes the coast) – all who live on the dole yet claim everyone else is a taker, so these asswipes mostly vote for the thug party – these idiots who are starting to be hit are the very States that most opposed AGL efforts. A perverse justice that we all will suffer for.

  94. 94
    jenn says:

    @cmorenc: On the other hand, Las Vegas has some of the most progressive urban water re-use figures anywhere. Yes, they’ve got some conspicuous water uses that I personally would like to get rid of, but the only ones I know about are gray water, and offsets. They have a massive return rate to the Colorado, and a tiny allocation of water from it – so they’re basically recycling water through the Colorado system. They’ve instigated xeriscaping regulations that hit lawn owners *hard*. Honestly, if you want to point at southwest desert water users, Vegas isn’t the one to point at. I mean, feel free, its not perfect, and I’d happily see gray water be routed to more useful uses, but they are much better than pretty much anyone else.

  95. 95
    Trollhattan says:

    Always fun to look at water issues elsewhere. Hey, how about the always peaceful Middle East, for laughs?

    Already strained by water scarcity and political tensions, the arid Middle East along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is losing critical water reserves at a rapid pace, from Turkey upstream to Syria, Iran and Iraq below.

    Unable to conduct measurements on the ground in the politically unstable region, UC Irvine scientists and colleagues used data from space to uncover the extent of the problem. They took measurements from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites, and found that between 2003 and 2010, the four nations lost 144 cubic kilometers (117 million acre feet) of water – nearly equivalent to all the water in the Dead Sea. The depletion was especially striking after a drought struck the area in 2007. Researchers attribute the bulk of it – about 60 percent – to pumping of water from underground reservoirs.

    They concluded that the Tigris-Euphrates watershed is drying up at a pace second only to that in India. “This rate is among the largest liquid freshwater losses on the continents,” the scientists report in a paper to be published online Feb. 15 in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

    Remember Saddam cutting off water to the Marsh Arabs? Good times.

    117 acre-feet is an astonishing amount of water. For a domestic comparison, in the wettest years the California Water Project can deliver between 4 and 5 MAF; most years it’s a fraction of that sum.

    If India and Pakistan go to war, it will likely be over water.

  96. 96
    Fair Economist says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice:

    From Digby’s place, the most terrifying graph you will see all year. Or century, for that matter.

    Unfortunately that piece is grotesquely misinterpreting the actual report and science in an alarmist fashion. The actual predictions are indeed very alarming, but gross misinterpretations don’t help anybody.

    The piece at Digby says that human society may be destroyed by 2050. First the predicted temperature increases are for 2100, not 2050; the report says that we’ll be locked into the outcomes by 2050. Second, 5 degrees is not the end of human society; significant portions of the tropical regions become uninhabitable at 6 degrees (and I’m sure a lot of those are at 5 degrees as well) but most of the globe is still inhabitable and human society will still very much be here.

    So the *actual* prediction is that if we don’t do something by 2050, we will be in a situation where billions will die by 2100. Now, that is *really* bad situation and I’m kind of at a loss why anybody would cite the crazy exaggerations unless their goal is to destroy their own credibility. But, there it is.

  97. 97
    Trollhattan says:


    Well, there’s this.

    Las Vegas’ plan to tap billions of gallons of groundwater lurched closer to reality this week after the Bureau of Land Management granted a right of way for a 263-mile pipeline connecting the fast-growing gambling destination with rural basins to the north near the Utah state line.

    But excluded from this decision, which environmentalists and local ranchers will likely challenge in court, was the contentious matter of whether the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) will tap water from under the Snake Valley, the basin straddling the state line west of Delta. This is because Las Vegas has yet to secure rights to this groundwater, which remains in dispute between Utah and Nevada.

    A proposed interstate agreement for dividing Snake Valley water awaits the signature of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. According to a spokesman on Friday, the governor and his advisers intend to review BLM’s move before deciding whether to sign off on the agreement, which has been favorably vetted by a panel of water-law experts.

    Under this proposal, Nevada would be able to pull up to 36,000 acre-feet annually from Snake Valley for diversion to the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which is seeking water sources to supplement its reliance on the over-allocated Colorado River.

    The new BLM decision focuses on proposed infrastructure that will move 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Cave, Dry Lake, Delamar and Spring valleys, and another 41,000 acre-feet secured through agreements with ranchers and Lincoln County. (An acre-foot, equal to 326,000 gallons, can meet the annual needs of up to four households.)

  98. 98
    Trollhattan says:


    Grr, should read 117-million acre-feet.

  99. 99
    mclaren says:

    And you thought San Diego was a paradise, Cole. Whaddaya think that lack of snow is gonna do to the Sierra snowpack, Cole? And where is Southern California gonna get its water from if not from the Sierra snowpack?

    You need to start thinking these things through…

  100. 100
    Mike E says:

    @raven: Seriously, the wingnut call for desalination of seawater, like the “unlimited” potential of energy from clean coal (& cold fusion) will be loads of fun. Not.
    @ranchandsyrup: I would love some kind of pastry app for android chrome since I spend all my time here via my RAZR. Can i haz?

  101. 101
    artem1s says:

    @Roger Moore:

    it makes a lot more sense if you let people sell their water outside the watershed

    bad, bad, bad idea. do this and they will drain the Great Lakes in a decade. We need to start severely penalizing developers who want to continue to build in areas where there isn’t any water. Most city zoning boards won’t let you put in a new business unless you can demonstrate you will have enough parking. Why aren’t these states doing the same with water? How about eliminating golf courses and pools to start? My city has plenty of water but still charges on a sliding scale as I use more water. Mostly because CO is already trying to run a pipeline to the Great Lakes.

    Thank the FSM for the Great Lakes Consortium

  102. 102
  103. 103
    PeakVT says:

    @PeakVT: That’s a misfire and FYWP won’t let me edit it. Blargh.

  104. 104
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    And you thought San Diego was a paradise, Cole.

    @mclaren: It is. And it will stay that way. Albeit with upwards of 90% of the population gone, which ironically will make it a far better paradise than it is now. Probably end up with just about the number of people living in the county when I was born here, actually.

  105. 105

    @mclaren: Only 30% of San Diego’s water comes from the Delta (Sierras). 50% from Colorado River and 20% developed or local.

    @Mike E: you’re gonna hafta ask Cleek about it. Sorry. But my life is much betterer with the filter.

    ETA: linky for updated filter:

  106. 106
    Trollhattan says:

    SD City’s water plan says this:

    The City purchases imported water from SDCWA, which purchases imported water from MWD and other Colorado River sources. MWD’s supplies come from the State Water Project (SWP) and the Colorado River. The SWP diverts water in northern California and delivers it to southern California through a 444 mile-long aqueduct. This water is captured in reservoirs north of Sacramento and released through natural rivers and streams into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A 242 mile-long aqueduct brings Colorado River water from Lake Havasu to MWD’s service area. MWD blends Colorado River and SWP water at a facility in Riverside County, and then transfers it to the City’s water treatment plants or City reservoirs via pipelines operated by MWD and SCDWA. Approximately 10 percent of the City’s imported water is treated imported water from MWD’s Lake Skinner Treatment Plant in Rancho, California or SDCWA’s Twin Oaks Treatment Plant.

    Here’s a breakdown of the county’s sources.

    Once almost all be purchased from MWD, now is much more diversified, with IWD (another SWP contractor) supplying quite a bit.

    When push comes to shove, farmersag corporations will sell their water to municipalities at a handy profit.

  107. 107
    Cassidy says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): With the new version though you can magic middle the fuck out of anyone hoarding water.

    @Ted & Hellen: @Ted & Hellen: I’m not on the schedule for today. You’ll have to ask john which one of us has been assigned to deal with your pathetic need for attention.

  108. 108
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @PeakVT: That’s too bad, always interested in what people have to say, even if I sometimes disagree strongly.

  109. 109
    Cassidy says:

    @Cassidy: magic missile. Damn phone.

  110. 110
    raven says:

    @ranchandsyrup: I still can’t get the pie thang to work.

  111. 111

    @Trollhattan: Once the ag guys make their profits, will they take down all of those signs in the San Joaquin Valley?;22711.jpg

  112. 112
    Mike E says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Yay! Thanks.

  113. 113
    AnnaN says:

    The most appalling part of this is that the frackers use from 1-5 million gallons of water to drill new wells. Wells which add to the greenhouse gases intheatmosphere and water which cannot go back into the system. That water is gone. There was a lot of anger in colorado over last summer as these oil and gas tanker trucks would park up to fir hydrants in long lines to fill up.

  114. 114

    @raven: Which browser do you use?

  115. 115
    raven says:

    @ranchandsyrup: FF, I uninstalled the old pie and downloaded the new one. I have the button but it doesn’t seem to do anything. I’m trying to put what’s it in there.

    I’d ask cleek but he filtered me years ago!

  116. 116

    “select” someone’s name that you want to pie by dragging your cursor over their nym so it is highlighted. Then hit the “Add selected” button.

  117. 117
    jenn says:

    @Trollhattan: Yep, I’ve read about it, and no, I’m not excited about it – however, as the article alludes, they’re trying to get this water because they get very very little Colorado River water – and its not like pulling Colorado River water is somehow without huge environmental impacts. They’re a big city and they use water. What I’m trying to say, however, is that compared to all the other southwest cities (and beyond), they’re far more efficient in their water use. So feel free to point fingers at awful, sinful Vegas; what I don’t understand is why folks are so keen to point fingers at Vegas and totally ignore basically everywhere else that isn’t doing nearly as good a job at water conservation.

  118. 118
    Trollhattan says:


    Oh lord no, they’re the original perennial victims(tm). They probably had Hannity standing beside that very sign last time he was out to provide his…expertise in all things water.

    Check out especially, Westlands Water District. Their board is supposed to be packed with former Bushies–they’re powerful as can be and love themselves some subsidized federal water. Smelt and steelhead, not so much.

    It’s all good.

  119. 119

    @jenn: Groundwater has a whole other set of problems. The recharge rate is slooooooooooooow.

  120. 120
    raven says:

    @ranchandsyrup: I’m sure this is operator error. “Add Selected” from where? In Greasemonkey Options I see add bit not add selected?

  121. 121

    @Trollhattan: WESTLANDS! *Said like Jerry Seinfeld says NEWMAN* I read a water/economics blog that goes into the idiocy of Westlands quite a bit.

  122. 122
    Cassidy says:

    @raven: At the very bottom under the comment box.

  123. 123

    @raven: OK. If you reinstalled the filter, you should see under the text box for commenting (right under the submit comment button) a box that says: Pie filter stuff and three buttons (add selected, remove selected and show list). If you don’t do the filter install again.

  124. 124
    Anna in PDX says:

    @Redshirt: Yes, well. Maybe they can pray for rain.

  125. 125
    Anna in PDX says:

    @mai naem: Cadillac Desert is the best book ever on this topic and was written way back in 1990 or so.

  126. 126
    Trollhattan says:


    I don’t care about the sin but rather, the city fathers’ wisdom in allowing absurd growth having not secured adequate water to support it. And now they’re casting a nearly 300-mile long net to drain a distant aquifer that they cannot reasonably expect to recharge at a rate commensurate with the proposed withdrawls.

    Basically, not learning from others’ mistakes.

  127. 127

    @Anna in PDX: First thing they’ll do is take a look at the Columbia River and all of its glorious water…….

  128. 128
    Trollhattan says:


    Yup that works,

    “Hello, Westlands.”

    “Hello, Jerry.”

    Much of their land is in the coast range rainshadow and gets well under ten inches rain/year. And, what, thirty years(?) after Kesterson there’s still no answer to the whole selenium waste thing.

    But, really, it’s all about “Jobs or fish.” Darn Gaia worshippers keep messing things up. Although I’d love to see a few of them drop in on the salmon fleet at Fort Bragg and try out that thought.

  129. 129
    raven says:

    Aite, got it thanks for all the help and AMF douche bag.

  130. 130
    grandpa john says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Yep, most of my lawn is native grasses except here we call them weeds. Hell if you keep them mowed they are still green, and if you have a drought they will stay green longer than unwatered lawn grass

  131. 131
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:


    Ideally, Obama shouldn’t offer it. If Arizona wants Federal money, let its GOP-ass come begging in public

  132. 132

    @raven: Nice! Good to see I have a backup career in IT helpdesk.

    @Trollhattan: Heh. Those fishing jobs are not as important as subsidized ag.

  133. 133

    @grandpa john: Weed is the nativest grass there is, grandpa john!
    Our love affair with the lawn goes back to feudalism. All of those serfs coveted the stately greens of their lords. Now people have postage stamp sized lawns that they can’t use.

  134. 134
    jenn says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Yes, I know that. I’m well familiar with Snake, Cave, and Delamar valleys – I’ve done quite a bit of hiking in the area. But it’s not like Vegas is the only one pulling groundwater for urban use. I’m not crazy about the eastern Nevada groundwater project either. I just think its a bit out of whack to be pointing at Vegas, and not pointing at basically every other arid U.S city, who’s doing far less to conserve water. Also, the incalculable environmental damage to the Colorado River estuary because of pulling too much water can’t be overstated. Even as damaged as it is, its still a critical wildlife resource area. What would I give to have seen it when it was still truly functional!

  135. 135

    @jenn: I can see how you feel that Vegas is being singled out. You are right, there are plenty of others that want to develop groundwater all over the west. It is almost like the forbidden fruit.
    Vegas has to do more to conserve/reuse water due to how and when it got so big and how the allocations work on the Colo. river. They can still do more (so can other municipalities and heavy users).
    100% agreed re: wildlife, habitat and wanting to see the system “wild and scenic”. Referenced that above re: Lake Powell.

  136. 136
    Trollhattan says:


    David Brower giving in on Glen Canyon, like John Muir giving in on Hetch Hetchy before him, were two of the worst western environmental capitulations. We’ll never know what things were like, before.

  137. 137
    ThresherK says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Beat me to it. Of course, I’m the late-to-the-party nonpariel in these parts. But when Cadillac Desert no longer applies…

    @Forum Transmitted Disease: No, earlier. Without looking, I think it was even before James Watt became a household name.

  138. 138

    @ThresherK: Then we will be proper fooked. They’ll have to revive the old plans. Towing icebergs, Columbia River, etc.

    Or we could desal like they do in Perth…..

  139. 139
    Maude says:

    Landsat 8 is going to be monitoring the water and temperature situation in the US states. It’s run by the USGS. It will be up and running in May.
    This has to do with irrigation.
    The Feds do get it and they do try to have accurate information and then figure out what to do.
    The Plains states are prone to drought. If we could move mountains, that might help.
    I care about where my food comes from. Selfish thing that I am.
    The building up of residential and commercial real estate in AZ can’t be good. The prices for houses in the Phoenix area have been rising. It’s mostly investors buying properties.
    The housing bubble has caused more problems than just mortgages. Houses were built where they don’t belong.

  140. 140
    Anna in PDX says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Maybe our crazy armed survivalists can protect it from their crazy armed survivalists!

  141. 141
    grandpa john says:

    Just think, in the not to distant future, Fashion magizines will be showing the latest style in stillsuits, and we will all dress like Fremen. Arrakis, a glimpse of the future but without the worms.

  142. 142

    @Anna in PDX: Y’all do have some good ones up there in Ory-gun. I wouldn’t bet against ya. Of course, I am just ashamed of my birth-state of AZ.

  143. 143
    opie_jeanne says:

    Or, you know, we could plant trees. Lots of trees. That’s what’s missing from all of the discussions.

  144. 144
    Persia says:

    @Disco: Just in time for me to get divorced and have to cut my spending too. Fuck you, ex.

  145. 145
    opie_jeanne says:

    @Geoduck: Yeah, but it seems like it’s been a pretty dry year so far, west of the Cascades.

  146. 146
    opie_jeanne says:

    @mclaren: LA has a small watershed near to hand in the surrounding mountains, the San Gabriels, Angelus Crest, etc. I’m not sure if small is the right descriptor, because a lot of the suburban towns get all of their water from that source.

  147. 147
    opie_jeanne says:

    @ranchandsyrup: That one’s unique in that it’s not right in front of an obviously thriving grove or field. Most of them are.

  148. 148
    Andrea says:

    You know where there’s still a lot of water? And a very sustainable place to live? Agricultural diversity, relatively inexpensive with regard to real estate, relatively temperate (compared to the plains)? The damn rust belt: Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

    I know there are a lot of factors involved in the economic troubles of the midwest, but whenever I hear about costs or water shortages or whatever in the south or southwest I laugh, but then get pissed. Seriously, a LOT of people let here for these other parts of the country, which is fine. I get it, auto bailouts and unions and teachers (WI) – but guess what? When the end of the world comes, guess where everyone is going to want to be? Upper/eastern midwest. No hurricanes, no earthquakes, no venomous creatures, few large predators, lots of water, good soil, mild winters and summers, huntable meat and people that know how to build stuff.

    Michigan is second only to California in agricultural diversity due to our micro climate. We actually can grow peaches in West Michigan. Just saying.

    So, while part of me sympathizes, the part of me that will be swimming in 20% of the ENTIRE WORLD’S fresh water in July is chuckling quietly.

    Good luck with your drought! Even though I make half what I could on the coasts or in the southwest/east, I’m staying.

    End rant.

  149. 149
    draftmama says:

    No – why should Vegas or Phoenix steal water from Canadians?

  150. 150
    Bill D. says:


    John Muir never gave in on Hetch Hetchy. The Raker Act which authorized the dam and associated intrusions into Yosemite National Park was passed over his strenuous but ineffective objections. Some say his death not long after was due to a broken heart.

    David Brower, OTOH, was guilty as charged and kicked himself for the rest of his life for that mistake.

  151. 151
    Matt says:

    Maybe it makes me a dick, but I can’t help but think “Good – it’s about time the home of ‘OMG AL GORE IS FAT’ and ‘ITS SNOWING SO GLOBAL WARMING IS FAKE’ reaped some of the destruction they’ve been enabling”. As long as sea-level rise and hurricanes were the worst of the effects, the flyover states could keep electing shills like Inhofe and pretending that climate change wasn’t happening.

    Maybe when they can’t even get WATER it’ll start to sink in – though I figure we’ve got at least five more years of “the drought is GAWD punishing us for UNAPPROVED SEXYTIMEZ and not killing all TEH GHEYZ / MOOSLEMS / MEXICANS / etc” nonsense to go…

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