Water War A’Coming – Who Wins, Who Loses?

Education Images/UIG

❝ Lake Mead is the country’s biggest reservoir of water. Think of it as the savings account for the entire Southwest. Right now, that savings account is nearly overdrawn.

For generations, we’ve been using too much of the Colorado River, the 300-foot-wide ribbon of water that carved the Grand Canyon, supplies Lake Mead, and serves as the main water source for much of the American West.

The river sustains one in eight Americans — about 40 million people — and millions of acres of farmland…snowpack in the Rockies has been dwindling, and there’s no physical way for them to store the water they depend on. There are no big reservoirs in the Rockies…

❝ And then there’s always climate change. On the world’s current emissions trajectory, sharply warming temperatures boost the odds of a megadrought in the Southwest sometime later this century to more than 99 percent. Such a drought would last a generation. Nearly all trees in the Southwest could die. The scale of the disaster would have the power to reshape the course of U.S. history.

❝ For now, the spat over the Colorado River offers a glimpse into water politics in an era of permanent scarcity.

Our little community in La Cieneguilla is well situated to survive a water war. Geology is on our side. So what? We have neighbors in the county, in the state, who will move to logical and kindly, illegal and greedy, solutions depending upon timely local politics.

Gird your loins wherever you may be in [or near] the Southwest. Hopefully, common sense and decency prevail.

30 thoughts on “Water War A’Coming – Who Wins, Who Loses?

  1. Cassandra says:

    “How a city that floods is running out of water” (BBC 5/14/18) http://www.bbc.com/future/gallery/20180510-how-a-city-that-floods-is-running-out-of-water “Mexico City is running out of water – and that crisis is exacerbating everything from sewage spills to subsidence to earthquakes.”
    “Mexico: Water Activist in Baja California under Preemptive Arrest for Bogus Charges” https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Water-Activist-in-Baja-California-Put-Into-Preemptive-Prison-20180513-0009.html
    “How Cape Town delayed its water-shortage disaster—at least until 2019” (Quartz 5/4/18) https://qz.com/1272589/how-cape-town-delayed-its-water-disaster-at-least-until-2019/

  2. On borrowed time says:

    “Satellite study finds major shifts in global freshwater” https://phys.org/news/2018-05-satellite-major-shifts-global-freshwater.html “What we are witnessing is major hydrologic change,” said co-author James Famiglietti of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We see, for the first time, a very distinctive pattern of the wet land areas of the world getting wetter—those are the high latitudes and the tropics—and the dry areas in between getting dryer. Embedded within the dry areas we see multiple hotspots resulting from groundwater depletion.”
    Annotated map of Terrestrial Water Storage trends from: “Emerging trends in global freshwater availability” https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0123-1/figures/1
    “Humans are causing massive changes in the location of water around the world, NASA says” (Washington Post 5/16/18) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/05/16/humans-are-causing-massive-changes-in-the-location-of-water-all-over-the-earth-nasa-says/?utm_term=.3892e2425bd6 “I think we have forgotten, society has forgotten, how much water it takes to produce food,” Famiglietti said. “We’ve taken its availability for granted. And you know, now we’re at a point in many of these aquifers where we can’t take it for granted anymore. Population is too great, groundwater levels are too low. … we’re at tipping points.”

  3. Chirrionera says:

    “New Mexico official says Texas landowners are “stealing” millions of gallons of water and selling it back for fracking” https://www.texastribune.org/2018/06/07/texas-landowners-new-mexico-stealing-water-fracking/ In this new water-war battlefront, the New Mexico land commissioner argues that unregulated pumping of water from wells along the state line in West Texas for use in fracking is depleting the shared aquifers that supply water to southern New Mexico.

  4. Ольга says:

    “Crimea water crisis resolution unlikely, risk of further Russian incursion into Ukraine rises in three-year outlook” (Jane’s July 5, 2018) http://www.janes.com/article/81549/crimea-water-crisis-resolution-unlikely-risk-of-further-russian-incursion-into-ukraine-rises-in-three-year-outlook
    Key points:
    ● The water crisis in Crimea, already severe, is likely to deteriorate further, following Ukraine’s decision to cut fresh water supply to the annexed peninsula in 2014, which had previously accounted for 86% of the total.
    ● Although there are potential non-military solutions to the Crimea water crisis, they would require large investments and time to be implemented successfully, thus potentially pressing the Russian leadership to choose a quicker military solution.
    ● A military operation to secure water supply for Crimea, currently a low-probability but high-impact scenario, would require Russian invasion into the Kherson region of Ukraine, potentially under a hybrid scenario under the pretence of assisting the oppressed Russian speakers in the region, reminiscent of the Donbass conflict’s scenario in 2014.

  5. Cassandra says:

    Pakistan: “Parched for a price: Karachi’s water crisis” https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2017/parched-for-price/index.html (interactive) “Residents of Karachi, one of the largest cities in the world, are being held hostage by a ‘mafia’ that makes millions of dollars out of their need for water.” See also “Karachi ‘water mafia’ sucking city’s pipelines dry” (2015) https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/09/karachi-water-mafia-sucking-city-pipelines-dry-150910062202773.html
    Scotland: “Water help for communities ‘running dry’ after heatwave” (BBC 7/18/18) https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-44865968
    “Sinking land, poisoned water: the dark side of California’s mega farms” (Guardian UK 7/18/18) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/18/california-central-valley-sinking-arsenic-water-farming-agriculture

  6. Basdin says:

    “The Klamath conflict: Water war along California-Oregon border pits growers against tribes, family against family” (San Francisco Chronicle 7/20/18) https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/The-Klamath-conflict-Water-war-along-13089350.php
    “Conflict in Klamath: A battle over irrigation rights in Oregon becomes, for a time, the latest flash point for antigovernment activists.” (Southern Poverty Law Center 2001) https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2001/conflict-klamath

  7. Here&Now says:

    ● “The Water Wars of Arizona: Attracted by lax regulations, industrial agriculture has descended on a remote valley, depleting its aquifer — leaving many residents with no water at all.” New York Times July 19, 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/19/magazine/the-water-wars-of-arizona.html
    ● “Georgia is nowhere near last battle in tri-state water wars” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 6/28/18)
    ● “In the midst of a state decision that the Turlock Irrigation District says could “drastically impact our communities,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited the two reservoirs on Friday that are in the middle of California’s water war.” (Turlock Journal, CA 7/20/18) https://www.turlockjournal.com/news/government/water-fight-attracts-federal-interest/ Environmentalists claim amendments to an Interior Department spending bill “aims to curtail ample flows through the San Joaquin River and its tributaries to the San Francisco Bay-Delta in favor of big corporate almond growers.”
    “Zinke will work to find a solution for all people, he [Secretary Zinke] said, adding that the next steps upon returning to Washington, D.C., include making sure that he, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue are all “on the same page.” “If the administration works together, we’ll have a solution fairly quick,” Zinke said.

  8. Tuchman's Law says:

    “The World Will Soon be at War Over Water” (Newsweek) https://www.newsweek.com/2015/05/01/world-will-soon-be-war-over-water-324328.html
    “What You Need to Know About the World’s Water Wars” (National Geographic) https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/07/world-aquifers-water-wars/
    “Water Wars: China, India and the Great Dam Rush” (The Diplomat) https://thediplomat.com/2015/04/water-wars-china-india-and-the-great-dam-rush/
    “The ‘water war’ brewing over the new River Nile dam” (BBC News) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-43170408
    “Mideast Water Wars: In Iraq, A Battle for Control of Water” (Yale E360) https://e360.yale.edu/features/mideast_water_wars_in_iraq_a_battle_for_control_of_water

  9. White Buffalo™️ says:

    In late 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court left standing a lower court ruling endorsing priority groundwater rights for Native American tribes by denying an appeal in Agua Caliente Band v. Coachella Valley Water District. This ruling establishes a new standard throughout nine western states within the lower court’s jurisdiction and establishes persuasive, although nonbinding, legal precedent for the rest of the United States. As many as 236 tribes in the West could have lands with unresolved groundwater rights according to a new Stanford University study published in Science. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/361/6401/453
    This means as the West’s water becomes scarcer in the coming decades, 200-odd tribes could play a key role in deciding who gets it — potentially boosting allocations for ecosystems as well as tribal areas that are already water-scarce. Their role could be especially great in Arizona, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah. See map at https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/0*MolCub85tmlqLDfj

  10. Doomsville says:

    Right now, New Mexico’s largest reservoir is at about three percent capacity, with just 62,573 acre feet of water in storage as of September 20.
    Elephant Butte Reservoir’s low levels offer a glimpse of the past, as well as insight into the future. Over the past few decades, southwestern states like New Mexico have on average experienced warmer temperatures, earlier springs and less snowpack in the mountains. And it’s a trend that’s predicted to continue.
    “There was no spring runoff this year. We started this year at basically the point we left off at last year,” says Mary Carlson, a spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Elephant Butte Dam, just north of the town of Truth or Consequences. The federal agency runs the Rio Grande Project, which stores water that legally must be delivered downstream to the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, the state of Texas and Mexico. http://nmpoliticalreport.com/879547/nms-reservoirs-weathered-this-year-but-what-will-happen-next-year-en/?mc_cid=37aa08512f&mc_eid=4b85ca587f …Elephant Butte Reservoir offers perhaps the starkest reminder that keeping up with the changing climate may require questioning long-held ideas of how water is managed and shared, how we think about rivers and reservoirs and even, who we consider our friends or foes.

  11. Isaiah 5:6 says:

    As NM’s water situation worsens, SCOTUS battle over the Rio Grande intensifies http://nmpoliticalreport.com/881010/as-nms-water-situation-worsens-scotus-battle-over-the-rio-grande-intensifies-en/?mc_cid=ac250e5dcb&mc_eid=4b85ca587f
    Also: “As warming strains NM’s water supplies, ‘status quo’ no longer works” http://nmpoliticalreport.com/880512/as-warming-strains-nms-water-supplies-status-quo-no-longer-works-en/ “…what people need to understand is we are facing conditions that mankind has not faced here before.” Between 1971 and 2001, average temperatures in the Upper Rio Grande Basin increased by an unprecedented 0.7 degree Fahrenheit per decade, or double the global average. And they’re expected to rise within the basin by an additional four to six degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century. A 2016 Bureau of Reclamation report also notes that the rivers flows in the basin, are already insufficient to meet the basin’s water demands, and the basin already experiences water supply shortages, even without the effects of climate change.”
    See also Rio Grande Basin fact sheet https://www.usbr.gov/climate/secure/docs/2016secure/factsheet/RioGrandeBasinFactSheet.pdf

  12. Harbinger says:

    Glaciers in western North America, not including Alaska, have lost about 117 billion tons of ice since 2000, and are currently losing about 12 billion tons a year, according to new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/glaciers-in-the-americas-are-melting-faster/
    Meanwhile, a second study published this week in Nature Climate Change confirmed that Patagonia, a region that includes parts of southern Chile and Argentina, is losing more ice than any other area in South America. The new estimates, also based on satellite imagery, suggest that the northern and southern Patagonian ice fields—covering about 6,500 square miles, the largest expanse of ice in the Southern Hemisphere besides Antarctica—are losing around 17 billion tons of ice each year. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0375-7
    Mountain glaciers are a critical source of fresh water, helping to feed the streams and rivers that wildlife and human communities depend on. As the glaciers shrink those water supplies begin to dry up.
    Also according to experts the estimated 5,500 glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region – site of Mount Everest and many of the world’s tallest peaks – could reduce their volume by 70%-99% by 2100, with dire consequences for farming and hydropower generation downstream. Over one billion people in Asia depend on rivers fed by glaciers for their food and livelihoods. While increased glacier melt initially increases water flows, ongoing retreat leads to reduced meltwater from the glaciers during the warmer months. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/27/most-glaciers-in-mount-everest-area-will-disappear-with-climate-change-study

  13. Heads up says:

    “On the Water-Starved Colorado River, Drought Is the New Normal” https://e360.yale.edu/features/on-the-water-starved-colorado-river-drought-is-the-new-normal
    With the Southwest locked in a 19-year drought and climate change making the region increasingly drier, water managers and users along the Colorado River are facing a troubling question: Are we in a new, more arid era when there will never be enough water? Second in a series. See also http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/2019/01/no-lake-powell-is-not-inexorably-headed-toward-dead-pool/#comment-748762

    • Mike says:

      Colorado, Western states finalize landmark drought plan to voluntarily use less Colorado River water : Feds welcome “drought contingency” plan to avert crisis still likely after 19-year shift to aridity https://www.denverpost.com/2019/03/19/colorado-river-drought-contingency-plan/
      Faced with reservoirs less than half full along the Colorado River, federal authorities and negotiators for Colorado and six other Western states have finalized a plan to share the burden of voluntarily using less water as growing cities and warming temperatures deplete the supply for 40 million people.

  14. Mike says:

    “French Town Becomes a Focal Point in War over Water : A battle is brewing in Vittel over Nestlé. The groundwater is running low in the French spa town and the multinational conglomerate is fighting for its rights to the commodity — and for its reputation.” http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/vexed-in-vittel-a-1252370.html
    Documentary Film “Bottled Life – The Truth about Neslé’s Business with Water”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0QH43DQLC4 See also https://ecogreenlove.com/2014/08/24/green-documentaries-bottled-life-the-truth-about-nestles-business-with-water/

  15. Cassandra says:

    “Water wars: Are India and Pakistan heading for climate change-induced conflict?
    Across the world, climate change is sparking conflict as people struggle over dwindling resources. The fight over water could quickly escalate between India and Pakistan — and both have nuclear arms.” (Deutsche Welle 1/25/19) https://www.dw.com/en/water-wars-are-india-and-pakistan-heading-for-climate-change-induced-conflict/a-47203933 Includes link to “Water scarcity in Pakistan – A bigger threat than terrorism”
    (“Pakistan recalls India envoy amid tensions over Kashmir attack : Islamabad recalls its ambassador a week after New Delhi summoned back its envoy after 42 troops were killed in Kashmir.” Al Jazeera 2/18/19)

  16. Honi ha-M'agel says:

    U.S. domestic water use in gallons per day per person and percentage population growth 2000 to 2015 from U.S. Census Bureau Population and Housing Unit estimates data sets (doesn’t include industrial or agricultural use)

  17. Hey, Rube! says:

    “What drought? These states are gearing up to draw more water from the Colorado River” https://grist.org/article/what-drought-these-states-are-gearing-up-to-draw-more-water-from-the-colorado/ There are at least six high-profile projects in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming that combined could divert more than 300,000 acre-feet of water from the beleaguered Colorado River. That’s the equivalent of Nevada’s entire allocation from the river. (One acre-foot is roughly equal to 326,000 gallons.) These projects are in different stages of permitting and funding, but are moving ahead even as headlines about the river’s dwindling supply dominate the news.
    The Colorado River sustains the American West. About 40 million people rely on the Colorado River and its water irrigates 5.5 million acres of farmland — an area roughly the size of the state of New Hampshire.

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