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Drought Conditions Out West Are Causing Businesses to Compete for Water

If water is the new oil, what are drought stricken regions to do? What are their water-intensive industries to do?

The Christian Science Monitor reports that a proposal in Nevada would send water to other areas through a 250-mile pipeline to feed such urban areas Las Vegas. That, however, would come at the expense of ranchers and farmers. As the story points out, though, the economic output coming from the cities is more than that which comes from the rural areas.

The problem is clear: neither the cities nor the rural regions have enough water despite heavy rainfalls this winter. The story says that the Lake Mead reservoir that feeds the Southwest has been a record lows. That has pressured Las Vegas to look for water outside the Colorado River System, it says.

What now? According to the monitor, a number of steps have been taken that include everything from prohibiting grass lawns for new homes to the advancement of treatment technology that make it possible to recycle water.

Farmers, meanwhile, are trading water through established markets — like brokers would trade commodities. And dams are becoming better and more efficient, all to serve both power and agricultural needs.

“There is no such thing as a non-controversial water project. It does not exist,” says Patricia Mulroy, in an interview with Christian Science Monitor. She is the former Southern Nevada Water Authority chief who was deeply involved with the pipeline debate. “People get very emotional about it, they get very hyperbolic about it. They will look at everything far more rationally than they do about water.”

There’s a diverse group of stakeholders all competing for water, along with the natural element on which mankind also depends.

Take California: It imposed a water ban more than a year ago to cope with what had been low rainfall and tepid snow fall. Allocations are thus contingent on what’s in the aquifers and the ground water systems. The Central Valley where the farmers work has been hard hit — a tough blow to a state that is the country’s biggest agricultural producer.Farmers already get 40 percent of all allocations.

Environmental concerns like maintaining river levels get about half while urban areas get 10 percent. The allocation can vary across the regions and the water is sometimes returned to the rivers and it is reused, says the Public Policy Institute of California.

No matter what state or what region of the country, the concerns over drought conditions will only heighten. Why? climate change and the water shortages it would bring with it, says the monitor. The solutions will thus evolve — whether they be new pipelines and modern dams, or something else.

“You need to step away and look at the broader energy usage and see where it is consumed,” says Jim Rogers, former chief executive of Duke Energy, in an interview with this writer. “Policymakers must ensure that the water people need is in harmony with the water that nature needs,” adds Rogers, also a Rubenstein Fellow at Duke University.
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One thought on “Drought Conditions Out West Are Causing Businesses to Compete for Water

  1. This is a great article outlining the problems with water scarcity and the importance of utilizing and conserving this precious resource. Instead of regulating farmers or citizens who need the water, why aren’t we more heavily regulating markets that can do without. such as power generation or cooling in general? Autry Industrial has a great product that can eliminate a facility’s need for cooling related water entirely. This would free up an enormous amount of freshwater resources to be utilized where they can’t be replaced such as agriculture and domestic needs.

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