[Marxism] Chasing water

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 2 16:50:54 MDT 2004


NY Times, May 2, 2004
Drought Settles In, Lake Shrinks and West's Worries Grow
by KIRK JOHNSON and DEAN E. MURPHY

PAGE, Ariz. — At five years and counting, the drought that has parched much 
of the West is getting much harder to shrug off as a blip.

Those who worry most about the future of the West — politicians, 
scientists, business leaders, city planners and environmentalists — are 
increasingly realizing that a world of eternally blue skies and meager 
mountain snowpacks may not be a passing phenomenon but rather the return of 
a harsh climatic norm.

Continuing research into drought cycles over the last 800 years bears this 
out, strongly suggesting that the relatively wet weather across much of the 
West during the 20th century was a fluke. In other words, scientists who 
study tree rings and ocean temperatures say, the development of the modern 
urbanized West — one of the biggest growth spurts in the nation's history — 
may have been based on a colossal miscalculation.

That shift is shaking many assumptions about how the West is run. Arizona, 
California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, the states that 
depend on the Colorado River, are preparing for the possibility of water 
shortages for the first time since the Hoover Dam was built in the 1930's 
to control the river's flow. The top water official of the Bush 
administration, Bennett W. Raley, said recently that the federal government 
might step in if the states could not decide among themselves how to cope 
with dwindling supplies, a threat that riled local officials but 
underscored the growing urgency.

"Before this drought, we had 20 years of a wet cycle and 20 years of the 
most growth ever," said John R. D'Antonio, the New Mexico State engineer, 
who is scrambling to find new water supplies for the suburbs of Albuquerque 
that did not exist a generation ago.

The latest blow was paltry snowfall during March in the Rocky Mountains, 
pushing down runoff projections for the Colorado River this year to 55 
percent of average. Snowmelt is the lifeblood of the river, which provides 
municipal water from Denver to Los Angeles and irrigates millions of acres 
of farmland. The period since 1999 is now officially the driest in the 98 
years of recorded history of the Colorado River, according to the United 
States Geological Survey.

"March was a huge wake-up call as to the need to move at an accelerated 
pace," said Mr. Raley, assistant secretary of the interior for water and 
science.

Losing Water at Lake Powell

Some of the biggest water worries are focused here on Lake Powell, the vast 
blue diamond of deep water that government engineers created in one of the 
driest and most remote areas of the country beginning in the 1950's. From 
its inception, Lake Powell, the nation's second-largest artificial lake, 
after Lake Mead in Nevada, was a powerful symbol across the West. Some saw 
it as a statement of human will and know-how, others of arrogance.

Powell, part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, has lost nearly 
60 percent of its water and is now about the size it was during the 
Watergate hearings in 1973, when it was still filling up. White cliffs 10 
stories high, bleached by salts from the lake and stranded above the water, 
line its side canyons. Elsewhere, retreating waters have exposed mountains 
of sediment.

The tourist economy here in Page has been battered. The National Park 
Service, which operates the recreation area, has spent millions of dollars 
in recent years just to lay concrete for boat-launch ramps that must be 
extended every year, a process that one marina operator here called 
"chasing water."

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/02/national/02DROU.html


Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 





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