To add to the below copy of Poppulation Media Center blog from Joe Bish, I would like to refer y’all to the best book I know about on the subject of water and the Southwest, by William deBuys, A Great Aridness. It’s not only excellent information but also has a chapter or two that expand on the history and political realities outlined below. Also check out his recent essay at TomDispatch (you can get the book through TomDispatch) (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175730/tomgram%3A_william_debuys%2C_goodbye_to_all_that_%28water%29/#more)
and listen to an excellent talk at http://www.Upaya.org (dp642_debuys_great-aridness-perspectives-on-environment_may-2012_dt.mp3) and of course I have said this before in Bare Bones Biology. https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/bare-bones-biology-114-great-aridness/. Check out one of these for good reading/listening, to round out the good info below, and to gain a broader perspective on one of the many ways in which the population issue affects whatever you are good at, and therefore how you can affect the welfare of us all.



I simply could not resist running the following two stories back-to-back; the first is not exactly breaking news, but instead delves deeper into the drying up of the American southwest. For example, people are now soberly coming to terms with the fact that Lake Powell is running so low it may not be able to produce electricity at the Glen Canyon Dam as early as winter 2015. The author notes that the Colorado supplies “drinking water for 36 million Americans, irrigation water for 15% of our nation’s crops and a $26-billion recreation economy that employs a quarter of a million Americans.” But, also that “Demand on the Colorado River’s water exceeds supply”, and that “average river flow could decrease by nearly 10% by mid-century.”

Which is a perfect segue into the next story, which reports out on the expectations that the state of Nevada will grow its human population by 49% (1.3 million) in the next 15 years. Of course, the connection here is that Nevada (with its rapidly growing populace) is heavily dependent on the Colorado River (with its dwindling flows already over-subscribed) for drinking water… what could go wrong here?

As a side note, in researching this situation, I was interested to see how much other states reliant on the Colorado would be growing in the next 15 years — and was bewildered to learn that the US Census Bureau does not have a current set of state population projections and currently has no plans to produce them. However, if you are interested, the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service does have such projections.

A slow-motion Colorado River disaster
It may take federal disaster relief to offset the consequences of water scarcity in the Southwest.
See: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/la-oe-mackey-colorado-river-drought-20130819,0,2138689.story?facebook)
On Aug. 7, the head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority called for federal disaster relief to address the consequences of water scarcity in the Colorado River system. On Friday, the Bureau of Reclamation announced it would be forced to cut the flow of water into Lake Mead in 2014 to a historic low. Dominoes may now fall from California to Washington, D.C.

A nearly century-old body of agreements and legal decisions known as the Law of the River regulates water distribution from the Colorado River among seven states and Mexico. Two major reservoirs help collect and distribute that water. Lake Mead disburses water to Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico. Mead gets its water from Lake Powell, which collects its water from Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. For the first time, Lake Powell releases will fall below 8.23 million acre-feet of water, to 7.48 million acre-feet, potentially reducing allotments down the line and setting off a cascade of significant consequences.

First, if recent dry weather in the Colorado River basin continues, declining water levels in Lake Powell could cut off power production at Glen Canyon Dam as early as winter 2015, affecting power supply and pricing in six states.

Second, less water coming into Lake Mead from Lake Powell may bring the level in Mead below an intake pipe that delivers water to Las Vegas by spring 2015. The Southern Nevada Water Authority has been racing to construct a deeper intake pipe by the end of 2014.

By winter 2015, Lake Mead also may dip to a level that would result in a major decline in power generation at Hoover Dam. That would affect the supply and cost of power for consumers in Nevada, Arizona and California. Southern California uses below-market-rate power from Hoover Dam to pump water to its cities and farms; if the region was forced to buy market-rate electricity from elsewhere, the price of water for Southern California consumers would surely rise.

These Bureau of Reclamation projections prompted Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, to call for federal disaster relief to mitigate the situation. She wasn’t specific about how much money would be needed or how it would be used, but disaster relief could go toward completing Las Vegas’ new intake pipe project, or for things like paying farmers to temporarily fallow their fields as a means to get more water in the reservoirs, or to finance a controversial new groundwater project in the region. Mulroy referenced Superstorm Sandy and said: “Does a drought not rise to the same level of a storm? The potential damage is just as bad.”

If anything, Mulroy is understating the situation. What’s at stake on the Colorado River, in addition to increased power and water costs, is drinking water for 36 million Americans, irrigation water for 15% of our nation’s crops and a $26-billion recreation economy that employs a quarter of a million Americans.

“Disaster relief” implies temporary measures, but the drought in the Southwest is not an isolated incident; it is a long-term reality. We need strong measures to head off further disaster, not just aid to help address the aftermath.

Demand on the Colorado River’s water exceeds supply. According to a 2012 Bureau of Reclamation study, average river flow could decrease by nearly 10% by mid-century. Carrying on with business as usual by continuing to build new diversions from the river and failing to significantly improve the efficiency with which we use the river’s water is akin to rebuilding wiped-out beach homes after a hurricane and then beckoning another storm to come in and destroy those homes again (requiring, of course, another government bailout).

Fortunately, that 2012 Colorado River study determined that urban and agricultural water conservation and recycling, along with market-based measures like water banking, are cost-effective measures that can lead the way to a secure water future for the Southwest. The Department of the Interior has convened a process with the seven Colorado River states and other interests to determine the next steps on water conservation and improving river flows. A report from the group should arrive next year. A robust plan is needed from this process to ensure a successful economic future for the Southwest, or else the dominoes will fall.

Nevada population to grow by 1.3 million by 2028
See: http://www.dailysparkstribune.com/view/full_story/294194/article-Nevada-population-to-grow-by-1-3-million-by-2028?instance=most_recommended

Nevada’s population is projected to grow by more than 1.3 million people – or 49 percent – over the next 20 years, according to The Nevada State Demographer’s Office.

The projections, released Tuesday by the demographer’s office, put the total state population at about 4 million by 2028. The demographer’s office is located on the University of Nevada, Reno campus.

“Nevada will likely continue to outpace the national growth rate,” state demographer Jeff Hardcastle said. “The Census Bureau’s National Projections show the United States growing by 22 percent between 2007 and 2028 and Nevada’s growth rate is projected at 49 percent for the same period.”

Overall, Hardcastle noted change will be uneven around Nevada. Northwestern Nevada (Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Storey and Washoe Counties) is projected to grow by more than 226,000 people.

The demographer’s report does not give a breakdown by city. According to the city of Sparks Web site, the city’s population as of July 2007 was 89,449. In 1990, the city had 54,347 residents; by 2000 it had grown to 67,151; and by 2010 it is expected to grow to 90,888.

For its long-term planning purposes, the city uses a projected population in the year 2030 of 133,600. Sparks city planner Armando Ornelas said that number was arrived at four years ago but is still the working number. He said the city adopts a population projection for its own master plan and that projection is reviewed by the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency.

“It’s all very tied in to the regional process because the regional plan looks at the growth of Reno, Sparks and southern Washoe County area and there’s an allocation of where growth will occur between the three jurisdictions.”

Under the state demographer’s projection, southern Nevada (Clark and Nye Counties) is projected to grow by more than 1.1 million people. According to Hardcastle, of particular concern is the impact of new hotel projects opening on the Las Vegas Strip between now and 2012. He said that the hotel projects have led to many high-end construction jobs, but after the 2012 date there are no other major projects on the horizon to keep those workers in Nevada.

“What happens when they’re done?” he said.

The projections are used in preparing the state’s budget and for other planning purposes. They were prepared using a model that relates a county’s population and economy to other counties and the nation as a whole. A draft of the projections has been provided to local governments and other interested parties.
Thank you,


Joseph J. Bish

Population Outreach Manager
Population Media Center
145 Pine Haven Shores Road, Suite 2011
P.O. Box 547
Shelburne, Vermont 05482-0547
PMC Tel. 1-802-985-8156
PMC Fax 1-802-985-8119