As temperatures rise, Arizona sinks — @HighCountryNews

From The High Country News (Jonathan Thompson):

Arizona is sinking. The combination of groundwater pumping and warmer temperatures is shrinking aquifers and lowering water tables. And as the land subsides, fissures open, 2-mile wounds that devour infrastructure and swallow livestock. Four of Arizona’s five economic pillars — cattle, cotton, citrus and copper — use huge amounts of water, while the fifth, the state’s climate, is changing, making water scarcer. Development and growth are intensifying the problem, despite relief from state laws and the existence of the Central Arizona Project, which began delivering Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson in the 1980s.

Today, where subsidence is worst, groundwater pumping isn’t even monitored, and big agricultural and anti-regulatory ideologues try to stymie any efforts to keep tabs on how much water is being pumped. Big corporate farms are sprouting in areas without CAP water and virtually no regulation on groundwater pumping. More and more farms produce alfalfa, one of the thirstiest crops on Earth; the number of acres in hay production more than doubled between 1987 and 2017, and tonnage nearly tripled. Meanwhile, Arizona is getting even hotter.

That kind of heat, according to a recent study published in Nature Communications, strains groundwater reserves, too. The study “Evapotranspiration depletes groundwater under warming over the contiguous United States” found that warming also stresses plants, forcing them to suck up more groundwater and further lowering water tables. “These changes show that even the most moderate warming projection can shift groundwater surface water exchanges and lead to substantial and persistent storage losses,” the study notes, adding that with just 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) warming, the nation’s groundwater reservoirs collectively will lose about four times the total volume of Lake Powell over four years.

Warming stresses plants in the same way in the arid West, Laura Condon, an assistant professor of hydrology at the University of Arizona and one of the study’s authors, said. Since the water tables here are deeper, however, the effect on groundwater is less pronounced — at least under natural conditions. But when crops are stressed by warming, more groundwater pumping is needed. “Humans are short-circuiting the natural system,” Condon said.

In other words, Arizona is sinking, getting hotter and getting thirstier. Groundwater pumping is increasing, water tables are plummeting, and many rural residents are watching their wells go dry, according to a recent investigation by Rob O’Dell and Ian James for the Arizona Republic. Not long ago, the football field at western Arizona’s Salome High School was reduced to dust thanks to water restrictions at the groundwater-dependent town, which has a number of large corporate alfalfa farms nearby.

What does all this look like on the ground?

Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster. Email him at

Democratic governors are quicker in responding to the coronavirus than Republicans — The Converstion

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who did not issue a stay-at-home order for his state until April 1, 2020.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Luke Fowler, Boise State University; Jaclyn Kettler, Boise State University, and Stephanie Witt, Boise State University

While the coronavirus pandemic is a national and international concern, state and local officials find themselves on the front lines of the public health battle.

Governors, in particular, have been in the spotlight in recent weeks. New York’s Andrew Cuomo has been praised by news outlets for his leadership at the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, while others have been criticized for slow responses.

A clear partisan gap has emerged in how quickly governors have declared emergencies and issue stay-at-home orders. Democratic governors have issued orders three to four days sooner than Republican governors, on average.

Timing pivotal

We study state governments, including their interactions with the federal government. Our previous work on federalism and state politics has identified partisan conflict between national, state and local government. Federalism is the distribution of power and authority across levels of government, and partisan conflict involves disagreements and competition between political parties. Partisan conflict over policy is nothing new.

But the coronavirus has put some governors in an ideologically compromising position. Republicans, who traditionally advocated for states’ rights, now find themselves deferring to the federal government.

Meanwhile, Democrats are leading the nation on pandemic responses and reaping the political rewards. They are also pushing for more federal coordination efforts, especially in obtaining high-demand medical supplies.

Although the same policies are being used across the country, the timing of decisions is likely to prove pivotal in mitigating how hard COVID-19 hits communities, as experiences in South Korea and Italy suggest. Earlier emergency declarations and stay-at-home orders increase the chances of a better outcome for the health of people in the state.

President Trump’s early discounting of the danger of the coronavirus may have stalled action by Republican governors.
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A trend – with exceptions

Based on a review of emergency declarations, we found that the median date for instituting a state of emergency for Democratic governors was March 10, and for Republican governors, March 13.

Although stay-at-home orders have only been issued in 41 states as of April 4, a similar trend is emerging there.

So far, all 24 Democratic governors have issued such an order with a median date of March 24. On the other hand, only 17 of 26 Republican governors have, and of those the median date is March 30.

Some argue that states led by Republicans were hit by COVID-19 later or not as hard as states led by Democrats. Yet based on data from the COVID Tracking Project, there was little difference in the number of cases in each state when governors announced these orders.

Most governors used boilerplate language citing public health experts in their announcements. But some evidence shows that Republican governors were responding to leadership from President Donald Trump, who largely downplayed the severity of the pandemic for weeks, which discouraged governors from taking actions that contradicted the leader of their party. For instance, on March 7, he said “I’m not concerned at all,” and on March 10 he claimed “it will go away. Just stay calm.”

Additionally, nearly half of Republican governors declared emergencies on the same day – March 13 – that the president declared a national emergency, and a few have explicitly cited Trump as a reason behind their decisions.

Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said, “Based on President Trump’s emergency declaration, I will declare a public health emergency.”

Florida’s Ron DeSantis, a Republican who had resisted issuing a stay-at-home order despite mounting pressure from public health officials and the media, cited the shift in Trump’s tone and demeanor as the signal it was time to issue a stay-at-home order to contain the pandemic in his state.

Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency on March 10.
AP Photo/David Eggert

Other Republican governors acted earlier. One factor in those cases is Trump’s approval ratings: Republicans in states where the president is unpopular moved more quickly.

Trump’s net approval – the portion of survey respondents approving of Trump’s job performance minus the portion disapproving –
in states with Republican governors that declared emergencies before March 13 averages +1; in Republican states declaring emergencies on or after March 13, it averages +8. For Democratic states, Trump’s net approval averages -9 before March 13, and -10 on or after March 13. Clearly, Trump’s net approval is important to the Republican governors.

Ohio’s Mike DeWine was the first governor to call for a statewide closure of schools on March 12, and Maryland’s Larry Hogan, who has been vocal in criticizing the White House’s leadership, was the first Republican governor to declare an emergency, on March 5. Trump’s net approval in Ohio is 0 and in Maryland, -24.

Partisan conflict evident

In contrast, Democratic governors have advocated for more aggressive response efforts at both state and federal levels.

In addition to Andrew Cuomo, who has become a key figure in recent weeks, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer has traded jabs with the president. New Jersey’s Phil Murphy has called for a “postmortem” on the federal response to understand why it has gone so wrong.

While conflict between political parties is usually most visible in Congress, the coronavirus has put partisan conflict between the president and governors on full display as federal and state governments try to contain this pandemic.

[Get facts about coronavirus and the latest research. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]The Conversation

Luke Fowler, Associate Professor and MPA Director, Boise State University; Jaclyn Kettler, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Boise State University, and Stephanie Witt, Professor of Public Policy, Administration and Political Science, Boise State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The April 2020, “The Current” newsletter is hot off the presses from the #Colorado Water Center

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Hydrology Days 2020 Webinar Conference

Each year the American Geophysical Union Hydrology Days meeting brings together water scientists, researchers, and students to discuss the current state of the science and latest water-related research findings. Although the traditional on-campus conference has been canceled, an online web conference will be held on April 13-14.

The Colorado Water Center is also accepting submissions to the Hydrology Days special issue of Colorado Water. Authors may submit a short article for consideration by April 15. Please visit our submission guidelines for more information.

R.I.P. John Prine: “In spite of ourselves we’ll end up a-sittin’ on a rainbow”

From 1970: John Prine’s first review, by Roger Ebert:

From The New York Times (William Grimes):

John Prine, the raspy-voiced country-folk singer whose ingenious lyrics to songs by turns poignant, angry and comic made him a favorite of Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and others, died on Tuesday in Nashville. He was 73.

The cause was complications of the coronavirus, his family said.

Mr. Prine underwent cancer surgery in 1998 to remove a tumor in his neck identified as squamous cell cancer, which had damaged his vocal cords. In 2013, he had part of one lung removed to treat lung cancer.

Mr. Prine was a relative unknown in 1970 when Mr. Kristofferson heard him play one night at a small Chicago club called the Fifth Peg, dragged there by the singer-songwriter Steve Goodman. Mr. Kristofferson was performing in Chicago at the time at the Quiet Knight. At the Fifth Peg, Mr. Prine treated him to a brief after-hours performance of material that, Mr. Kristofferson later wrote, “was unlike anything I’d heard before.”

A few weeks later, when Mr. Prine was in New York, Mr. Kristofferson invited him onstage at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village, where he was appearing with Carly Simon, and introduced him to the audience.

“No way somebody this young can be writing so heavy,” he said. “John Prine is so good, we may have to break his thumbs.”

The record executive Jerry Wexler, who was in the audience, signed Mr. Prine to a contract with Atlantic Records the next day.

Music writers at the time were eager to crown a successor to Mr. Dylan, and Mr. Prine, with his nasal, sandpapery voice and literate way with a song, came ready to order. His debut album, called simply “John Prine” and released in 1971, included songs that became his signatures. Some gained wider fame after being recorded by other artists.

They included “Sam Stone,” about a drug-addicted war veteran (with the unforgettable refrain “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes”); “Hello in There,” a heart-rending evocation of old age and loneliness; and “Angel From Montgomery,” the hard-luck lament of a middle-aged woman dreaming about a better life, later made famous by Bonnie Raitt…

Mr. Dylan, listing his favorite songwriters in a 2009 interview, put Mr. Prine front and center. “Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism,” he said. “Midwestern mind trips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs.”

John Prine was born on Oct. 10, 1946, in Maywood, Ill., a working-class suburb of Chicago, to William and Verna (Hamm) Prine. His father, a tool-and-die maker at the American Can Company, and his mother had moved from the coal town of Paradise, Ky., in the 1930s.

Mr. Prine later wrote a ruefully bitter song titled “Paradise,” in which he sang:

John grew up in a country music-loving family. He learned guitar as a young teenager from his grandfather and brother and began writing songs…

…Roger Ebert, the film critic for The Chicago Sun-Times, wandered into the club while Mr. Prine was performing. He liked what he heard and wrote Mr. Prine’s first review, under the headline “Singing Mailman Who Delivers a Powerful Message in a Few Words.”


Mr. Prine went on tour in 2018 to promote “Tree of Forgiveness,” and after a two-night stand at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville — known there as the mother church of country music — Margaret Renkl, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, wrote, under the headline “American Oracle”:

“The mother church of country music, where the seats are scratched-up pews and the windows are stained glass, is the place where the new John Prine — older now, scarred by cancer surgeries, his voice deeper and full of gravel — is most clearly still the old John Prine: mischievous, delighting in tomfoolery, but also worried about the world.”