What Happens When the River Runs Dry?

V.B. Price, in the Independent, has a must-read rumination on water constraints in middle Rio Grande planning:

Is the notion of “reinventing cities” in the American West less about new rail and other transportation infrastructure than it is about finally being honest about water and doing something about it?

But what could be done?

Must we place a moratorium on all new building in our region?

Must counties in the Middle Rio Grande Valley and adjacent communities actually do water planning together?

Do we finally have to have real numbers that add up, not projections based on funny math and politics?

Will we be forced to spend the money and time it takes to get an ever more accurate assessment of how much water our aquifers still actually contain?

Price is raising important questions here, but I think there are some potential answers that might not turn out the way he hopes. It gets back to the argument I’ve made in the past for disentangling land use and water planning tools. His list has some essential elements on it, including the need to do our water math better so we’re up front about what we actually have, and the need to coordinate water and land use planning across the various governmental jurisdictions in the middle Rio Grande that have responsibility for both.

But it would be possible to do the water planning in such a way that we provide sufficient water to allow the sort of growth patterns that Price abhors. We could, for example, decide we no longer want agriculture. I’d never argue in favor of that. I’m merely pointing out that, if water becomes the primary constraint as we plan our future, there are some potential outcomes that V.B. would not like.

One Comment

  1. Good article. Thanks.
    I have been reading David Zetland’s blog continually. Such rights are discussed there.

    To make the matter more litigious, there are the aboriginal water rights of Native Americans (Aamodt et al.) that may trump the compact rights.

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