Water in the Desert

As deserts go, the place I live now is modest. Albuquerque is in the 10 inch (25 cm) per year range. The deserts of my youth, where I developed my fondness for arid landscapes, were the real deal – creosote and year-round sun. I can remember once as a teenager sitting with a friend on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona. Average annual rainfall there is 3 inches (7.5 cm). Rivers have a whole different meaning in a place like that.

Aquafornia, a blog I’ve been reading with pleasure lately, has a post today about Borrego Springs, a community on the edge of the Imperial Valley not all that far from where I sat those many years ago looking down on the Colorado. These desert places I so loved in my youth are improbable – the bone-dry creosote landscape interspersed with splotches of artificial green. From Aquafornia’s bit on Borrego Springs:

On my trip to the Salton Sea this summer, it was hard not to notice the bright, improbably green agriculture growing in the middle of the hot, dry barren desert. The town is facing fundamental questions about how to survive with limited water resources and how this could change the character of the whole town.


  1. I visited Borrego Springs a few years ago with my family. From the perspective of a visitor to the park, what is notable is not so much agriculture (which apparently consumes about 70% of the water, but doesn’t stand out to the eye) but the golf courses (which consume about 10% of the water, but which are shockingly lush against the dry desert landscape).

  2. Kit –

    It’d be interesting to know how the golf courses are being watered. In Tucson, for example, they’re using treated sewage. Not that such reclaimed water is free, but its opportunity costs are less.

  3. Interesting point. I don’t know the answer, although Borrego Springs is not a big town, and the golf course/resort where we stayed was a few miles out. If it was using reclaimed water for the greens, a great deal of pipe and pumping would be required.

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