Why do you think there is a water crisis in the West? Lack of rain? Climate change? Really bad luck? What if we told you that the recent dryness isn’t the sole cause of this unfolding disaster? What if we told you that we’re to blame? And that this crisis is man-made — built over the last century with bad policy, arcane laws and willful ignorance to environmental red flags (ahem: climate change)?
ProPublica has asked some of the leading thinkers on water management issues to weigh in.
There’s a historic water crisis unfolding in the American West, with increasingly urgent drought reports from California to Colorado. But so far, the balance of focus has been on the climate, not on ourselves. This week, ProPublica and Matter begin publishing Killing the Colorado, a multi-part series by Abrahm Lustgarten investigating the truth behind the water crisis in the West. In his report, Lustgarten explains how man-made policies and practices have helped drive today’s crisis.
“When faced with a dwindling water supply, state and federal officials have again and again relied on human ingenuity to engineer a way out of making hard choices about using less water. But the engineering that made settling the West possible may have reached the bounds of its potential. Dams and their reservoirs leak or lose billions of gallons of water to evaporation. The colossal Navajo Generating Station, which burns 22,000 tons of coal a day in large part to push water hundreds of miles across Arizona, is among the nation’s biggest greenhouse gas polluters, contributing to the very climate change that is exacerbating the drought.” …
If you’ve been reading the recent media coverage about the unfolding water crisis in the West, you might think the sole cause is lack of rain, or something to do with climate change. But here’s something you probably haven’t read: This crisis is man-made — built over the last century with bad policy, arcane laws and willful ignorance to environmental red flags (ahem: climate change). That means there are things that can be done, right now, to fix it.