The Dehydrated States of America

Nevada is adding 80,000 new residents every year; Arizona is the fastest growing state- Tuscon and Phoenix will probably merge in the next ten years. Yet as the map shows, these are also the areas of America going through the worst drought in years.

In the southeast it is just as bad. In Florida, Lake Okeechobee has receded so much that parts of it caught fire. Worst of all, the Jack Daniels Distillery in Tennessee has warned it may have to reduce or suspend production, because the spring waters on which it relies are flowing as much as two-thirds below normal.


Lake Powell has dramatically dropped, as can be seen by the bleached bathtub ring.

Yet even though there is so little water, John Ibbitson of the Globe and Mail notes that "many homeowners associations in Florida not only require sod, but they have guys in golf carts driving around measuring the shade of green. And if you don't have the right shade, you get a nasty letter from the homeowners association and a fine." Such practices continue even as overuse of aquifers in some parts of the state have caused seawater to seep in, contaminating the water supply.

Everywhere in North America, the development industry controls local politics and local polititians control zoning and land use. " Developers press local councils relentlessly to grant zoning exemptions for new subdivisions and condominiums, and both local and state politicians are instinctively averse to limiting growth for the sake of something as intangible as future water availability. Some developers even get away with what are known as "wildcat subdivisions," built in defiance of local authorities through clever exploitation of legal loopholes.

Greg Garfin, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona, asks "The questions for me are: Where is the public debate about whether to grow at any cost, or to adopt lifestyles that may require some pain?" he asks. "If we retire agricultural lands to save the water they use, will these lands become more housing subdivisions? Do we, as a society, want to make such trades? Do we all want to live in a world where we accept the fact that we've depleted our water supplies to such an extent that we are willing to accept desalination as a fact of life, even if it means that our ecosystems are more vulnerable to drought, insect infestations and fire?" ::Globe and Mail

Tags: Arizona | Florida

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