#Water #conservation efforts to thwart #drought delusional — The Boulder City Review #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Alfalfa harvest via the Western Farm Press.

Click the link to read the guest column on the Boulder City Review website (Rod Woodbury). Here’s an excerpt:

Over the last two decades, however, the river has generated average flows of only 12.3 million acre-feet annually, a huge shortfall despite serious municipal conservation and reuse efforts. Southern Nevada has led the way in those laudable efforts. Despite adding 750,000 to our population since 2000, we’ve somehow managed to cut consumptive use by 26 percent due to aggressive conservation and recycling programs. Still, it’s not nearly enough. Global warming and the megadrought are projected to continue, which means river flows and lake levels will keep plummeting without drastic policy changes. We’re now only 90 feet above the “dead pool” level at which Hoover Dam will cease generating electricity.

And it’s no longer alarmist to prophesy that it could happen within our lifetime or even the next decade. That’s why the federal government recently issued its first-ever shortage declarations, reducing Nevada, Arizona and Mexico’s collective allocations by over 700,000 acre-feet annually, then tasking the seven river states to create a collaborative plan cutting an additional 2-4 million acre-feet annually next year.

So, here’s where I get brutally honest, which always seems to get me in big trouble. But I’ll say it anyway. Nevada isn’t the problem. If we were feeling generous, Nevadans could permanently donate back our entire annual allocation and it wouldn’t even make a dent. River flows would still be woefully insufficient to supply current uses and Lake Mead would still be rapidly draining. Of course, just because Nevada isn’t the problem doesn’t mean we can’t be part of the solution. Southern Nevadans should continue our conservation and recycling efforts, even if only to set an example and because it’s the right thing to do. But we need to stop pretending that eliminating more Clark County lawns, reducing the size of more (Las) Vegas golf courses and swimming pools, or even recycling all 1 million gallons of Boulder City’s daily wastewater will somehow solve the systemic river and lake problems. It won’t. Nevada amounts to nothing more than a statistical rounding error in the riverwide problem, and absolutely nothing Nevadans do to better conserve or recycle is going to change that…

Domestic water use also isn’t the problem. Nor are golf courses and resorts. If we completely wiped out the residential populations of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, for instance, drying up millions or acres of turf and water features in the process, the lake would still be dropping.

Let’s be honest. Desert agriculture is the real problem source. It uses approximately 80 percent of the Colorado River’s water to irrigate 15 percent of the nation’s farmland, producing a high percentage of winter fruits and vegetables. In fact, 20 percent of the entire Colorado River system’s output is channeled across the desert to a few wealthy landowners in California’s once-arid but now-productive Imperial Valley. And growers of cattle feed like alfalfa are by far the biggest river water consumers. So, if we really want to solve our Colorado River problem, then desert agriculture either needs to evaporate out of existence like the water it uses or become vastly more efficient. The best way to ensure that happens is to let the market dictate price. Make agriculture, commercial and industrial users pay for every drop they use, sending it to the highest bidders. With the market in control, we’ll be shocked how quickly irrigation ditches get lined with concrete, recycling projects ramp up and the lake start rising again.

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck. Credit: Brad Udall via Twitter

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