The perils of drought are on ample display along the Rio Grande, where a rising thirst has tested farmers, fueled environmental battles over vanishing fish and pushed a water-rights dispute between Texas and New Mexico to the Supreme Court.
But you can also see glimmers of hope. Albuquerque, the biggest New Mexico city along the Rio Grande, has cut its water consumption by a quarter in 20 years even as its population has grown by a third. Irrigation districts and farmers — which consume perhaps seven of every 10 gallons of river water — are turning to technology and ingenuity to make use of every drop of water given them.
John Fleck, a journalist and scholar at the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program who is finishing a book on the Colorado River, said no one should dismiss the gravity of the West’s plight. But neither is it necessarily ruination.
“This whole running-out-of-water thing isn’t really doom,” he said. “When water gets short, farmers get very clever.”
With which, it goes without saying, I agree.