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Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate 377

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the captain-planet-warned-you dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes A new study shows that ground water in the Colorado basin is being depleted six times faster than surface water. The groundwater losses, which take thousands of years to be recharged naturally, point to the unsustainability of exploding population centers and water-intensive agriculture in the basin, which includes most of Arizona and parts of Colorado, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Because ground water feeds many of the streams and rivers in the area, more of them will run dry.
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Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate

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  • ALL RIGHT! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:19PM (#47526149)

    Soon the Department of Water and Power will control all the water and have all the power.

    • But where will the US get its supply of mutant kangaroos?
    • by alen (225700)

      most property deeds out there already exclude water and mineral rights. this has been a periodic problem going back hundreds of years

  • Peak Water (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:22PM (#47526167)

    And you thought the wars and environmental harm over oil was bad, we ain't seen nothing yet.

    • Re:Peak Water (Score:5, Interesting)

      by alen (225700) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:49PM (#47526395)

      US military does periodic defense reviews and the ones i saw back in the late 90's predicted wars over water shortages

      • by Wootery (1087023)

        Well, predicted as in considered the possibility of, right?

        • Re:Peak Water (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:40PM (#47526721)

          Well, predicted as in considered the possibility of, right?

          No. Predicted as in we already see the wars being fought over the economic conditions arising from a lack of it elsewhere.

          Believe it or not, you can live without Internet, oil, air conditioning or even meat. But if drinking the local well water is gone, or "just" poisons you, you can't survive. You'll kill not for gold or ideology, but for water to drink, or to prevent your kids/wife/etc from dying of thirst. The ironic bit is we will poison the local well water via fracking for gas, so we can have "cheap" oil to fight for farther distant oil fields.

        • by alen (225700)

          yep

          but then every war has been about resources and religion or anything like that

      • Civil wars?
    • Where is that person that wanted to buy the world a coke when you need them?

      But seriously, if polar bears are happy drinking coca-cola to cool off in the global warming, it should be good enough for the rest of us.

  • by jbmartin6 (1232050) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:26PM (#47526205)
    And now all the pot farming is going to make it even worse.
    • by msauve (701917)
      Beer FTW! Then you're only renting the water.
    • Yeah, but if you smoke the pot, you won't worry about the water any more . . . except for your bong.

    • If everyone is stoned they'll hang out on the couch and won't wash as often, saving on shower water.

      Also, they won't have the initiative to go out for a round of golf.

      So, you can let the water-hog golf courses turn back into habitats for ground squirrels and coyotes.

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:26PM (#47526209)

    People have been talking about this ever since (and likely before) T Boone Pickens stole the water in western TX.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nonsense! This is nothing more than a fake liberal crisis by King Obama! Its a conspiracy to turn the country into a commie state and kill capitalism!

      The solution is obviously to give corporations the power to monetize water! Only by deregulating water and allowing the free market to decide things will things be solved!

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        The problem is that people actually believe this. Ie, if the government says anything, it is automatically assumed to be a lie by the same people who use much of that water. Coastal towns which tend to be more liberal start conserving (except San Francisco, since they legally yet immorally own a water shed a hundred miles away). Inland farmers tend to be be conservative and are dubious about it, and a subset of those think it's a plot. Their concern number one is that they might have to let some fields

    • by swillden (191260)

      People have been talking about this ever since (and likely before) T Boone Pickens stole the water in western TX.

      Old rancher's saying: "Men fight over land, but they kill for water."

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:01PM (#47526869) Journal

      People have been talking about this ever since (and likely before) T Boone Pickens stole the water in western TX.

      Texas has uniquely dumb laws that let you suck up whatever water is underneath your land.

      So if you own a couple acres on the edge of a giant underground reservoir that spans several counties, you are allowed to drain the entire reservoir from your property.

      Texas tried to mitigate this by allowing for local water boards, but they get bullied/sued if they don't allow the resource extraction.
      Read more here: http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/print-view/who-stole-the-water-20140623 [mensjournal.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:27PM (#47526221)

    That headline alarmed me!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:31PM (#47526251)

    Waterist like to pretend water is crucial for life and plant development. These are all fabrications from hydrologists who wish to keep their grant money.

  • Cancerous tumor. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Camel Pilot (78781) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:33PM (#47526273) Homepage Journal

    Some time ago I remember reading about a proposal to building an aquaduct from the Snake River in Idaho to Southern California. It reminded me of the metaphor that when a cancerous tumor grows unchecked it will commadeer local blood vessels for its own use.

  • for every state along the cost.

    • by msauve (701917)
      "the cost."

      Freudian slip?
    • by DudemanX (44606)

      That would be great as it would require bringing nuclear power back in a big way.

      • Actually, the co-location of desalination plants with natural gas power generation is the new rage. I am in TX, so I have a parochial view of it, but this is the near future.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Getting most of the salts out is energy intensive. That last few ppm is probably even harder to get out; but that last few ppm is what will eventually salinate the soil. Unless they've solved that problem, they'll have to ban irrigation in any area that uses desalinated water, and ENFORCE the ban.

    • by oursland (1898514)
      We're getting one in Carlsbad, CA, in the north of San Diego County. The upside is that it provides a nice local source of fresh water. The downside is that it costs twice as much per gallon and has a minimum purchase contract, regardless of usage and need.

      California may be experiencing a drought now, but other years this becomes an unnecessary cost that may affect people of differing incomes unequally.
  • by digsbo (1292334) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:34PM (#47526279)
    One of the things I was looking for in a house was to be able to supply my own well water. I've got the acreage, and the area is fully developed. All 2 acre lots. Never had a problem with the water table, never should. And I won't need to deal with government restrictions over municipal supplies.
    • by TheReaperD (937405) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:42PM (#47526343)

      You say that now but, when that well runs dry, you'll be screaming "why didn't the government do something about this!"

    • by nblender (741424) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:46PM (#47526373)

      Until your well collapses one day and you need to get approval to drill a new one and that approval is not forth-coming because there's now a water-coop that you need to join instead; paying them lots of money to run a pipe to your house and charging you per cubic meter...

      Seen it happen; it's coming.

      My well collapsed and fortunately a permit to drill a new one was a rubber stamp and I have a nice clean (albeit very hard) 10gpm well. Hopefully this well will last until I'm too old to care...

      • by digsbo (1292334)
        The entire area is fully developed for miles around and hasn't seen aquifer degradation; none of the wells have run dry in the 50+ years they've been operating. We have neighbors who have already had backup wells dug. We're probably in as good a shape as anybody outside a place like Montana could be.
      • Until your well collapses one day and you need to get approval to drill a new one and that approval is not forth-coming because there's now a water-coop that you need to join instead; paying them lots of money to run a pipe to your house and charging you per cubic meter...

        Seen it happen; it's coming.

        My well collapsed and fortunately a permit to drill a new one was a rubber stamp and I have a nice clean (albeit very hard) 10gpm well. Hopefully this well will last until I'm too old to care...

        I've never gotten a permit to drill a well.
        There are some things the government can't regulate because they're impossible to regulate.
        Granted, I'm lucky that I live in an area where I know people that will borrow me the equipment to do such things. If you're living in the middle of town the rig might become obvious...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:47PM (#47526379)

      All of those 2 acre lots are a tiny spot on the water table map that they lie on. Everyone else is sucking up your water and you don't even know it.

    • by Cyberax (705495)
      You have to choose carefully. Watertable is a shared resource, and if it's not replenished then eventually you might find yourself without access to water once a large farm nearby sucks all of it to water plants. Getting information about watertable boundaries is surprisingly complicated.
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday July 24, 2014 @10:36PM (#47528009) Homepage
      I might be misunderstanding, but how does having a well protect you from people depleting the groundwater? If the groundwater is depleted, doesn't your well go dry?
  • I'm personally kicking back and waiting to see what the end game of this all is.

    Is a pipepline going to be created? Massive desal plants powered by...who knows what? Mass exodus? Ghost towns? Agriculture prices skyrocketing leading to global food riots?

    Interesting times indeed.
    • The problem with using desal plants supplying the Great Basin Desert [wikipedia.org] would be that the process doesn't eliminate the sodium in the water, it only reduces it to potable levels; sodium builds up in the soil and eventually becomes toxic to the plants. How long this takes depend on how much salt is left in the irrigation water and how much rain actually falls to wash out the excess salt.

      • by Cyberax (705495)
        Mild salt content is not a problem if there's at least some rainfall. Salted ground becomes a problem if you rely ONLY on irrigation.
    • by fizzer06 (1500649)
      From this article: http://www.nytimes.com/1982/09/26/us/houston-s-great-thirst-is-sucking-city-down-into-the-ground.html/ [nytimes.com],

      Subsidence, as geologists call the phenomenon, is just one of the unanticipated consequences of rapid growth that have come to plague Houstonians. The city's roads, services, and even the very land beneath it, have been unable to sustain it all.

      and: Moreover, downtown Houston is sinking fast, too. A recent computer simulation of the process suggested that it could sink 14 feet more b

  • by Espectr0 (577637) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:45PM (#47526365) Journal

    in northwestern Venezuela we are having the biggest drought in 60 years. We only have 57 days left of water, and that's including with limited use (1 and a half days of water per week!)

    Our water comes by the way of reservoirs, and we depend heavily on rain. Can't remember the last time it rained and we are getting extremely worried

  • When I took a geography class focussing on the western US, one of the things the teacher mentioned (which I haven't verified independently, but it was his job) was that the Colorado River water rights were allocated based on how much the Colorado River was running in roughly 1920, which happened to be an unusually high flow rate period, so ever since then there hasn't been enough water to satisfy everyone. (Water rights are allocated by time priority: first person who used it gets to take the entire amount

  • by bobbied (2522392) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:59PM (#47526465)

    Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.

    This applies to all of the southwest and a lot of the plains. Land is useless for anything but energy production without a supply of water, so you drink your whiskey and fight over the water. This has been true for centuries and will continue to be true for many more.

  • PBS covered this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:02PM (#47526485) Homepage Journal

    One of the local farmers said "I expect when we run out this next decade, everyone will be very angry over the decisions we made to plant water-intensive crops in a very arid land for so many years".

    It's like Global Warming.

    It's coming for you whether you believe in it or not.

  • by Maltheus (248271) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:05PM (#47526499)

    Why don't they just use Brawndo? It's the thirst mutilator.

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:08PM (#47526525)

    I really hate when they lump everyone together. The fastest draining aquifer is the Ogallala, which is in the middle of the country, not the west. What this article claims is absolutely not true in 99% of the areas included in that list of states. My state, Utah has one of the most highly regulated water systems in probably the world. We have strict regulations on wells and draw rates that are reviewed and approved by state regulators that will halt all pumping if they detect subsidence in the aquifer. The aquifers are almost uniformly carefully monitored to ensure water levels don't drop, and in some areas near the salt lake they monitor to ensure positive pressure into the lake is maintained so salt water isn't sucked back into the fresh water.

    Yes there are bad situations out there, Las Vegas and Phoenix are terribly managed water systems IMO, favoring growth over conservation. We shouldn't have 6 million people living in a desert that can barely naturally support 1/10 that many. And pumping several hundred thousand acre feet of water over a mountain range for Phoenix is a terrible waste of water, not to mention the water lost to evaporation in the process and the power used.

    But this blanket inclusion of all the western states in this indictment is stupid. Those of us with scarce water resources have carefully managed them for the most part. Utah's been managing water use far longer than most states because it's a scarce commodity and always has been. There is a river in Utah where every single drop is used 7 times before discharge into the Salt Lake and the river isn't very long.

    If you want to talk about water misuse, talk about the areas misusing water and stop lumping the rest of us in with them.

    • Agreed. Most of the country doesn't have a problem. The people living in the Arizona desert watering their Golf courses are running out of water... well surprise surprise. Let them run out. They can move... pretty much anywhere else in the country to avoid that problem. The solution to this problem is simple... ignore it.

    • by slinches (1540051)

      We shouldn't have 6 million people living in a desert that can barely naturally support 1/10 that many. And pumping several hundred thousand acre feet of water over a mountain range for Phoenix is a terrible waste of water, not to mention the water lost to evaporation in the process and the power used.

      I get it, you don't like the Central Arizona Project, but without it what would Arizona do with it's share of the Colorado? I think it's better to deliver it to where it's needed (i.e. Phoenix) than sell it to southern California or let it flow into Mexico unused. The areas nearest the river are poor areas for development anyway.

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:36PM (#47526691)
    California is sitting next to the largest body of water on the planet, all they need to do is set up some desalination plants to make it potable
  • California Gov Brown Urges a %20 voluntary reduction in usage. The media coverage has been moderate. In a world where something as mundane as a celebrity tweet is news I have to wonder if this is being downplayed to avoid panic? Is there some broad based assumption that somehow next year or the year after is going to be different? I'm concerned that if the next three years are like this one it could be a serious problem to say the least. +1 Brawndo has electrolytes.
  • If there's no water no one will notice it's gone.
  • What is the real incentive for any one to conserve the ground water? If some one owns a square inch of land, he/she gets to suck out as much as he/she can out of the "his/her" ground. It is private property rights, stupid. If the owner did not do so, the neighbor will do so. So all it takes is a few short term "my property, my way, you go to hell" people, and it will be a race to the bottom in the earnest.

    Half the congress is corrupt and is paid to keep quiet. The other half makes some half hearted noises

  • As someone living in California, I can't wait until the Sideways bunch are forced to grow their grapes in a different fucking state.

  • These communities need to shout growth, growth, growth and issue oodles of new business and housing permits. That way these dummies will die from lack of water and stop their economic madness. Oh! And they need to make oodles and oodles of babies also. After all, growth is their god.

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