Western state water negotiators met in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace. Everyone was there and nothing got agreed to, slow motion natural disasters allow participants time to stall.
As far as stalling goes sending everyone to the Vegas Strip where the deadlocked, stalemated and going nowhere negotiations could play out was at least good for the gaming industry. You want to play games with the future of the American West why not come here—
Many of the most capable spokespersons all set down the same talking points. There was talk of the threat to dead pools, surface evaporation rates, lawn removal, and the demise of the Salton Sea.
I like that the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California said that until they knew how much water they could get from the Sacramento River Delta they couldn’t predict how much water they could live without from the Colorado River.
Honorable mention has to go to lettuce growers down in Yuma for being the poster child for all the water that agriculture needs and wants. In point of fact it is and always was and always will be the alfalfa growers that remain the most protected group of water users that are about to be removed from the endangered species list.
The most talented orators in the ongoing century long fiasco known as the Law of the River understand there ain’t no use talking about taking alfalfa growers water away. Alfalfa has become the most invisible and most invincible crop to ever curse the veins of our riparian habitat. They got most of the water, they definitely got the most fearsome lobby, you want your career to grind to sudden end try crossing this grass growing group.
Here’s my best guess as to what’s going on right now. First, calls have been made to survey teams in the Sierras, Wasatch and Rocky Mountains. Right now we are above normal in snowfall totals, but Debbie Downer from the Geologic Survey continues to warn of the new normal, drier and slightly warmer climate continues to reduce total runoff once the spring melt gets underway. Debbie is such the bummer.
I’m going to take a swing at what I think happens next. The Department of Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation will call for draconian cuts by February, you’ll want to wait to announce those cuts until after the President’s State of the Union but before Valentines Day.
They keep talking about cutting between 2- and 4-million-acre feet of water— let’s say they decide on 3-million-acre feet, and most of those foot-acres of water will come out of the water allocated to alfalfa growers in California. Smaller cuts will fall on the bit players in Nevada, Arizona and Utah.
Again, friends, climate skeptics and Luddites let me stress that there is enough water for residential use but there is not enough water for what agriculture special interests want to do and that is to grow more alfalfa.
Good decent hard working urban Americans are going voluntarily send help to these hard hit rural regions. What we have to do is help the rural alfalfa producers of the American West through what will be a wrenching economic transition to a new rural way of life.
Or— we can just extend and pretend and hope against hope that it will finally rain enough to bail us all out of the fix this 23 year long drought has put us in.
I’ve crunched the numbers, counted bodies, estimated river flow percentages and had a fair number of Prickly pear cactus margaritas preparing highly accurate projections of the fix we are in and the way to climb out of the dang dusty waterless mess we find the Southwest American desert stuck in.
What makes this hard isn’t the science, it’s not coming up with the answers, it’s the politics. Water is something you either have or you don’t have, there isn’t more water that we can have Congress vote on and pass then deliver to customers out here, there isn’t any water, and that is different than other kinds of things we are short of.
Decent God fearing folk get their knickers in a knot when you start talking about how the world’s population is playing a role in the resource constraints we are experiencing. People do not want to talk about Debbie Downer taking birth control pills or making her own plans to have or not have a family.
Alfalfa growers are akin to the same thing. Taking alfalfa out of production represents a kind of extinction event to this industry and they are not ready to have their crop sacrificed on the altar of this climate emergency, hell this thing isn’t even real, it’s all some horrible mistake, let someone else take the cuts, I want my water and I want to do whatever it is I’ve been doing.
Once you get the space in your head to start thinking like the space inside the head of a farmer that’s been growing alfalfa for the last three decades you can see they just don’t think it’s fair. Again, figure farmers use most of the water out here and then most of the water farmers use goes to growing alfalfa. It turns out that if you start looking for sacrifice you need to go to the users that have been using most of the water.
Try this piece of reality on for size. All the farm products in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California combined are almost a rounding error to the region’s total gross domestic product. Farms use most of the water and return the smallest of all economic benefits to the region. That worked so long as we weren’t in the midst of global climate emergency and no longer works because we have got our civilization backed up against the wall of reality.
Figure to that bellyaching you hear coming sometime after Valentine’s Day will make Kari Lakes moaning about election fraud sound like a whimper.
Hope you find yourself meeting your better half under the mistletoe this week. Happy— happy peeps—