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Old 09-06-2016   #31
Redmond, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1973
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It's not all hopeless and with opposable thumbs and a frontal cortex, surely we can figure some of this stuff out. So I have to re-recommend the article on decoupling that I linked above.

My belief is that with ongoing droughtish conditions we are toast.
Too many selfish thumbs with too many needs.

We can't fix this in a proactive manner.

Your link bragged about a California 40% reduction in ag water use with increased production since 1980.
Where has that gotten us?

Trivia for the day.
Warmer air drys out plants and soil faster. It can hold more moisture so it takes it.

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Old 09-06-2016   #32
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glenwierd, Co.
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I don't think a drought is 100% of the problem when you have reservoirs in the high country used to divert water to the east.


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Old 09-06-2016   #33
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Originally Posted by BilloutWest View Post
My belief is that with ongoing droughtish conditions we are toast.
Too many selfish thumbs with too many needs.

We can't fix this in a proactive manner.
food production is being disrupted in a big way. animal protein of the future will not require an animal in the typical sense. look into investment trends in regard to meatless startups and there's lots of money betting on the disruption of meat. Egg producers are already worried enough to have embroiled themselves in a scandal trying to sabotage the chicken-less competition, using gov. funds nonetheless. We've gone just about everywhere else in regards to tech, it seems naive to think it can't happen to meat. The taste is already there, the price is still the issue--it needs to come down, and it will with more investment and competition. Unfortunately Big Ag uses the same playbook as Big Oil, so I'd expect some more bumps on that road...
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Old 09-07-2016   #34
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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Originally Posted by Andy H. View Post
Then, in irrigated watersheds like the South Platte Basin, a lot of the water that's applied to crops percolates to the aquifer and returns to the river to be used by farmers downstream to be used again. These "return flows" feed the system and provide a year-round river flowing to Nebraska whereas prior to the diversions and wide-spread irrigation the South Platte only flowed during spring runoff, and may not have even flowed into Nebraska on some years. Now days the inefficiency of the system is what allows the SP to meet the demands of all the irrigators all the way downstream on a lot of years (and produce that cattle feed that brings us such affordable cheesburgers).

Then you have to compare irrigated watersheds like the South Platte to irrigated watersheds like the Arkansas. Even though the Ark is supported by a few trans-basin water diversions the water doesn't flow over the state line, and the lower Ark Valley is a substantial agricultural area with heavy irrigation. Many irrigation ditches have been lined with concrete though, John Martin reservoir holds back floods and more and more water rights are being sold and the water taken out of the basin before reaching formerly irrigated lands. Much of this water is now flowing into the South Platte basin....

These photos say a lot. They were taken only a few days apart. The first is the Numbers stretch of the Upper Arkansas near Buena Vista. Only around 50-60 miles from the headwaters.

The second is the Arkansas River bed approximately 320 miles downstream, just over the Kansas state line near Syracuse....

GARNA’s mission is to foster stewardship of the resources of the greater Arkansas River region through education, volunteerism and experiences.
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Old 09-07-2016   #35
Florence, Colorado
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As far as the Arkansas River in Kansas, even they admit draining the Ogallala Aquifer, by multiple states, has led, in part, to the river going underground shortly after the state line. It seems like the problems are multiple and varied on every western river. After 150 of the wettest years, according to national geographic, we seem to be entering a drier and more historically normal pattern, in addition to the issues already raised.
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Old 09-07-2016   #36
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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There is definitely something wrong when a river can be flowing over 4,000 cfs at it's headwaters and be bone dry just over 300 miles downstream... I can only imagine what the riparian corridor through extreme western Kansas was like when covered wagons first rolled through...
GARNA’s mission is to foster stewardship of the resources of the greater Arkansas River region through education, volunteerism and experiences.
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Old 09-07-2016   #37
cedar city, Utah
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Agreed, lmyers. I think that and the Colorado River delta are prime examples of how we affect water distribution in place and time. The ecological maxim "there is no away" that Elkhaven highlighted is true but fails to account for the complex ways humans alter the landscape. Water obviously stays in our larger system but not always in ways that support us or our environmental values.

The decoupling idea Andy highlights is likely the crux to changing water management in the west. It's a trope much older than the western boosterism that launched pioneers (and continues to drive much of our population growth) and will be difficult to alter. We see it's influence in many cities in the west as more dams continue to be proposed, like the Bear River dam (s) SLC and outlying burbs want to build. The trope is largely driven by the themes of scarcity and competition in the places I have lived. That and political power differential (rural Utah vs Vegas for Utah aquifer rights).

Until we tackle those powerfully entrenched memes I can't imagine ideas like decommissioning dams in the arid west are ever more than romantic pipe dreams. I would wager our region might be entering a new age of reservoir construction if the implications of climate change ever fully enters political discourse. Climate change could be co opted by the historic coupling already outlined in a manner that could easily drive infrastructure projects to outshine the importance of efficiencies.

I say that as Washington, Kane and Iron Counties have shown that "use it or lose"mentality is alive and well in much of the west. There is still a festering tension between those in the region who want to focus on our local water source and the others (very much influenced by developers) who still think moving water uphill from Powell is a good idea. The idea just doesn't seem to want to die.
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Old 09-07-2016   #38
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Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Originally Posted by BilloutWest View Post

Bottom line, in the State of California anyway, is going to have to cut back on farm/ag water. That means to a degree cutting back on some of those industries.

Your point is well taken, but until the federal government rescinds the law of prior appropriation, or abrogates (or inconceivably buys) existing very senior Imperial Valley water rights, the Colorado Compact guarantees the lower basin states no less than 7.5 maf yearly average over a 10 year period (or 8.3 - 9.0 maf if you include Mexico, depending on your particular basin's interpretation of Minute 319 and/or degree of shortage). These numbers have been more recently modified by the interim 2007 resolution based on degree of shortage to Lake Mead but still with only minimal drop in delivery even during extreme shortage periods. It is the upper basin states which are initially at greater risk, which is precisely why Powell will be preferentially drained before Mead. The water level at which each dam's penstocks will no longer function will also be a determinant.

We need another 1983. Three or four of them.

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Old 09-07-2016   #39
Western Slope, CO, Colorado
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I don't think anyone in Detroit, say, are worrying about drought and houses are only a dollar. Plenty of area and water to raise cows. 2 cows can easily be raised on a few acre homestead being fed only what is grown there. Their Milk, Cheese and Meat is enough to feed a family all year and a pair will rejuvenate themselves.

People really only migrated to the West about a half century or so ago, so it will probably go down as one of the shortest occupations of such a large area ever in history.

To quote Sam Kinison " It's a desert. It's always going to be a desert. Move to where the food is. "

The amount of water on Earth is the same as it has always been. The distribution merely changes over time. People will eventually move with it and take their cows with them.

In the meantime, if you live in the SW, a really good investment right now would be some water rights shares, but be sure to sell them at the right time.
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Old 09-08-2016   #40
SLC, Utah
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Originally Posted by duct tape View Post

We need another 1983. Three or four of them.
Sadly, wishful thinking seems to pass for strategy. Doesn't bode well

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