Opinion

The World is Inching Towards Actual Violence Over Access to Water

The Hoover Dam is losing its reason for being.
IMAGE ROBERT ALEXANDER / GETTY IMAGES
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Here at the shebeen, one of the larger elements in our portfolio is water—specifically, the increasing political salience of water, especially in the West, where they are experiencing such profound drought conditions that the Hoover Dam, of all things, is losing its reason for being. From CBS News:

For more than eight decades, the iconic Hoover Dam has relied on water from Nevada's Lake Mead to cover up its backside. But now, at age 85, it finds itself uncomfortably exposed. Much of the water the dam is supposed to be holding back is gone. "This is like a different world," said Pat Mulroy, the former head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. She told CBS News senior national and environmental correspondent Ben Tracy that Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir, is on track to soon hit its lowest level ever recorded.

The dam is estimated to have lost a quarter of its customary hydroelectric power. Worse, the lower Colorado River, without which the country would have a lot of new deserts, is at a crisis stage, and the federal government may have to take serious action that will affect the region’s farmers—and that I guarantee you will set off the Bundy-ite fringe.

For the first time ever, the federal government is expected to declare a water shortage on the lower Colorado River later this summer. That will force automatic cuts to the water supply for Nevada and Arizona starting in 2022. Homeowners have higher priority and, at first, won't feel the pain as badly as farmers. Dan Thelander is a second-generation family farmer in Arizona's Pinal County. The water to grow his corn and alfalfa fields comes from Lake Mead. "If we don't have irrigation water, we can't farm," he said. "So, next year we are going to get about 25% less water, means we're going to have to fallow or not plant 25% of our land.” In 2023 Thelander and other farmers in this part of Arizona are expected to lose nearly all of their water from Lake Mead, so they are rushing to dig wells to pump groundwater to try to save their farms.

Meanwhile, a few degrees north, the High Country News reports the drought is killing fish and local economies, in that order.

Fish have been dying on the Klamath since around May 4, according to the Yurok Tribal Fisheries Department. At that time, 97% of the juvenile salmon caught by the department’s in-river trapping device were infected with the disease C. shasta, and were either dead, or would die within days. Over a two-week period, 70% of the juvenile salmon caught in the trap were dead.
Irrigators upriver from the fish kill were told in mid-May that for the first time since “A” Canal in the Klamath Project began operating in 1907, they would not receive any water from it. The irrigators say they need 400,000 acre-feet of water but this year, they will receive just 33,000 acre-feet from the Klamath Project — a historic low. The situation has put pressure on an embattled region already caught in a cyclical mode of crisis due to a drying climate. “For salmon people, a juvenile fish kill is an absolute worst-case scenario,” Myers said in a statement.

As is obvious, this is all yet another crisis within the general climate crisis. We are inching closer to the days when we might see actual violence over access to water. As if we all need another excuse.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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