It’s easy to blame climate change when you’re in DC begging for money to subsidize your water problems. OK, maybe not easy, on account of DC not believing in climate change and stuff. Also not having any money even if it did.
But the dynamic in this Steve Tetreault story as Pat Mulroy visits our nation’s capital hat in hand is fascinating.
I’m not sure if the LVRJ has called off their copyright attack dogs yet, so I won’t blockquote the key passages. Go read it and come back. (Can I link without getting sued? Hope so.)
Basically, Mulroy, head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, was in DC arguing that a changing climate has hammered Las Vegas’s water supply such that the rapidly growing southwestern city (at least it was rapidly growing until recently) needs the feds to chip in to somehow help fund the “third straw” intake to ensure continued supplies to Vegas even as Lake Mead drops.
Here’s the problem, which I’ve argued until I’m blue in the face. During the great drought of the ’00s, as Lake Mead dropped and Vegas stared a catastrophe in the face, the great reservoir continued to get its entire legally mandated allotment. The drought cut into surpluses that Vegas and other Lower Basin water uses have come to depend on. But over the decade of drought, the river never missed a payment to Lake Mead. It did this in two ways – because upper basin states aren’t using their full allotments, and because Lake Powell, upstream, was relatively full when the whole mess started. Vegas and the other downstream users survived on bonus water that they can’t count on in the long run.
So sure, blame climate change on the supply side if you want. But there’s a demand side issue here too.