Yuma’s economy in a single photo

People I talked to on my recent trip to Yuma repeatedly ticked off the three components of the regional economy: ag federal (mostly military) tourism If you count me as “3” on a Gila main canal ditch bank as a squadron of military helicopters flew over, this picture captures them all. I think it’s fair …

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1080.18: Lake Mead breaks another record, lowest since it was filled

At the 7 p.m. Pacific Time reading this evening, the surface elevation of Lake Mead dropped to 1080.18 feet above sea level, surpassing the previous low set last August to mark the lowest the big Colorado River Reservoir has been since it was filled in the 1930s: The record came as Hoover Dam’s operators ramped …

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In Coachella Valley, poor people who are always in drought

The Desert Sun has been doing a great series on California’s drought, but this is surely the most important of the stories. While the rest of California worries about a dwindling supply, some poor residents of the palmy, leafy, lawny Coachella Valley, playground of Southern California wealth, don’t have a safe drinking supply at all, …

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“I’m stuck in my ways.”

It was only when I was captioning and filing my pictures from my recent tours of the old bits of Arizona’s Lower Colorado River water infrastructure that I noticed what the graffiti here said: “I’m stuck in my ways.” It’s a surreal spot – springing from the side of a harsh desert canyon, a remarkable …

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Lake Mead, always with the record setting lows

As I write, the surface elevation of Lake Mead is 2 1/2 inches away from setting yet another record for its lowest levels since it was filled in the 1930s. Henry Brean, with characteristic flair, writes that the threshold will likely be crossed Sunday: The last time Lake Mead was this low was May 1937, …

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In a Colorado River shortage, Central Arizona will be fine for now

The folks at the Central Arizona Project and Arizona Department of Water Resources held a workshop yesterday to discuss the implications of Colorado River shortage. I didn’t have time to get down there, but Summer Pauli covered the basic message for Cronkite News Service: Arizona’s communities, industries, mines and Native American tribes aren’t likely to …

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Some breathtakingly bad California drought journalism

I’ve been avoiding wasting time on the “someone’s wrong on the Internet about California drought” genre – so much is being written that is so bad. But Elijah Wolfson’s Newsweek cover story (I won’t link, find it if you must) is so breathtakingly well-researched-and-written-ly bad that I’ll let it stand in for the genre: We’re …

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Santa Fe NM’s water rates are really high

Brett Walton’s annual U.S. municipal water rates survey is out. They show that, as post-World War II infrastructure nears the end of its useful lifespan, the cost of keeping things together is rising: Continuing a trend that reflects the disrepair and shows no sign of slowing, the price of residential water service in 30 major …

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A great water historian in California’s time of need

UCLA’s Jon Christensen* has written a lovely, loving essay remembering the late water historian Norris Hundley, who wrote so well about western water, and (Jon argues) is important now, in California’s time of need: It’s not for nothing that we often talk of western water wars. What Norris showed is that at times this looked …

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One more money quote from the California court decision on tiered water pricing

A friend notes that I may have cut the best part from the “Cadillac Desert” quotation in this week’s California court decision on tiered municipal water rates. We hope there are future scientists, engineers, and legislators with the wisdom to envision and enact water plans to keep our beloved Cadillac Desert habitable. But that is …

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