Category: Commentaries

Robert Glennon Opines: ‘If You Live in New York City, Why Should You Care What Happens to the Colorado River?’

Guest post from Robert Glennon, Regents Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona College of Law and author of Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It and his first book Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America's Fresh Waters. He is also a co-author if the Brookings report Shopping for Water:  How the Market Can Mitigate Water Shortages in the American West. I first met Robert at an NGWA meeting in Orlando in the early 2000s where he keynoted. Imagine speaking about his popular (not technical) book before a bunch of groundwater scientists and engineers at their annual conference! What hubris! He had us…

Rethinking a finite resource

National Hockey League teams in the United States and Canada annually use 300 million gallons of water to operate their arenas. Most facilities use a surprising amount of water. Yet facility managers, much like everyone else, might take water for granted. When people turn on the tap in the morning, out comes a limitless supply of high-quality water for less than the cost of cell phone service or cable television. Most people think that water is like air, infinite and inexhaustible. On the contrary, it is finite and exhaustible. Even though water is critical to the operations of facilities, most…

A water strategy for the parched West: Have cities pay farmers to install more efficient irrigation systems

“Are you going to run out of water?” is the first question people ask when they find out I’m from Arizona. The answer is that some people already have, others soon may and it’s going to get much worse without dramatic changes. Unsustainable water practices, drought and climate change are causing this crisis across the U.S. Southwest. States are drawing less water from the Colorado River, which supplies water to 40 million people. But levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the river’s two largest reservoirs, have dropped so low so quickly that there is a serious risk of one or both…

What is dead pool? A water expert explains

Journalists reporting on the status and future of the Colorado River are increasingly using the phrase “dead pool.” It sounds ominous. And it is. Dead pool occurs when water in a reservoir drops so low that it can’t flow downstream from the dam. The biggest concerns are Lake Powell, behind Glen Canyon Dam on the Utah-Arizona border, and Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona border. These two reservoirs, the largest in the U.S., provide water for drinking and irrigation and hydroelectricity to millions of people in Nevada, Arizona and California. Some media reports incorrectly define dead pool as the point at…

Water is cheap…should it be?

SYLVIE DOUGLIS, BYLINE: NPR. (SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, "WAKING UP TO THE FIRE") SALLY HERSHIPS, HOST: All this week, we are talking about water or the lack of it. The climate crisis means intense heat, drier weather and drought, and today at least one uncontained fire, which is causing evacuations in Lake Tahoe. And California and Nevada have both declared a state of emergency. But despite these extreme consequences from water scarcity, often, we do not seem to treat this incredibly valuable commodity with the respect it deserves. ROBERT GLENNON: The water for your flush toilet is something you…

As Colorado River Basin states confront water shortages, it’s time to focus on reducing demand

The U.S. government announced its first-ever water shortage declaration for the Colorado River on Aug. 16, 2021, triggering future cuts in the amount of water states will be allowed to draw from the river. The Tier 1 shortage declaration followed the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s forecast that the water in Lake Mead – the largest reservoir in the U.S., located on the Arizona-Nevada border – will drop below an elevation of 1,075 feet above sea level, leaving less than 40% of its capacity, by the end of 2021. The declaration means that in January 2022 the agency will reduce water deliveries to the Lower Colorado…

Containing the Spread of COVID-19: The Importance of Continued Wastewater Testing and Surveillance

We seem to have turned a corner on COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. Infection and death rates are way down. Multiple vaccines, developed in record time, seem to be helping. More than a hundred million American have been fully vaccinated. More than half of all Americans have received at least one dose. But this horrible virus and accompanying disease are not going away anytime soon. We're nowhere near herd immunity. The delta variant is more infectious and virulent. Pockets of resistance to getting vaccinated exist for various reasons, including fear and mistrust. More than a dozen European countries suspended the use…

Evaporated Water

“This is a case about evaporated water.” Thus began U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s opinion for the Court in Texas v. New Mexico, decided on December 14, 2020. Wait a minute!  The Supreme Court is a very busy Court with complicated, serious legal problems to resolve, yet they heard one about something that no longer exists? The Pecos River starts in New Mexico and flows into Texas. In 2014, as a tropical storm threatened to flood the Texas portion of the Basin, the State of Texas asked New Mexico to store Pecos River water in a reservoir in New…

Interstate water wars are heating up along with the climate

Interstate water disputes are as American as apple pie. States often think a neighboring state is using more than its fair share from a river, lake or aquifer that crosses borders. Currently the U.S. Supreme Court has on its docket a case between Texas, New Mexico and Colorado and another one between Mississippi and Tennessee. The court has already ruled this term on cases pitting Texas against New Mexico and Florida against Georgia. Climate stresses are raising the stakes. Rising temperatures require farmers to use more water to grow the same amount of crops. Prolonged and severe droughts decrease available supplies. Wildfires are burning hotter and lasting…

Is Romaine Safe to Eat?

Introduction We were delighted as our 12-year-old grandson ordered a Caesar salad when we were having dinner at a pizza place. Vegetables! However, the dinner was December 22, 2019, shortly after CDC and FDA issued yet another warning against eating romaine from Salinas, California. I asked the server where the romaine came from. He didn’t know but went in the back to inquire. He returned and said, “Salinas.” Since 2017, seven outbreaks involving romaine lettuce have sickened hundreds and killed five. Those are the reported numbers. No one knows how many other people got sick. In six outbreaks the lettuce came…