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Deep Green Resistance Southwest February News Roundup

Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests Campaign

Will Falk in a Pinyon-Juniper clearcut (Photo by Max Wilbert)

Will Falk in a Pinyon-Juniper clearcut (Photo by Max Wilbert)

Deep Green Resistance and WildLands Defense are advocating for a moratorium on all pinyon-juniper deforestation in the Great Basin and we need your help. Pinyon-juniper forests are being wantonly killed as weeds while their inherent ecological value is summarily ignored. These forests store carbon dioxide, dampen climate change, provide crucial wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, and have helped humans survive in the Great Basin for millennia. A moratorium gives us time to marshall our resources to put this destruction to a permanent end.

See for yourself the destruction of Pinyon-Juniper forests and then join the fight.

Sign this petition with us and ask BLM to stop clearcutting pinyon-juniper forests

2/3/2016 BLM & the Ranching Industry: a History of Collusion
1/5/2016 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: BLM’s False Claim to Virtue
12/13/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: The Oldest Refugee Crisis
12/1/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: An Ancient Vision Disturbed

Follow our Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests campaign on Facebook for more updates.

Sacred Water Tour

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

The SNWA water grab is a prime example of how civilizations (cultures based on cities, as opposed to cultures based on perpetual care of their landbases, without resource drawdown) inevitably destroy the planet. A bloated power center, ruled by the ultra-rich and served by an underclass of poorly-paid workers, bolstered by bought-and-paid-for politicians (see Harry Reid) and misused public tax dollars,  reaches out and takes what it wants from the countryside.

One of the developers who wants the water grab has described the Mojave desert around Las Vegas as “flat desert stuff.”  They call living land a wasteland to justify its continuing plunder.  To indigenous peoples—Shoshone, Paiute, and Goshute—the land and water are sacred.

Anyone who respects land and visits this place will fall in love with it.  That’s the purpose of the Sacred Water Tour, an annual gathering organized by Deep Green Resistance for the past three years.  In coordination with local activists and indigenous people, the public is welcomed every Memorial Day weekend to tour the region.

Join us in May of 2016!

Resistance Radio: Derrick Jensen interviews Max Wilbert about the SNWA water grab
2015 Sacred Water Tour: Sacred Water Under Threat
2014 Sacred Water Tour: Report-Back
Groundwater Pipeline Threatens Great Basin Desert, Indigenous Groups
Follow our Stop the SNWA Water Grab campaign page on Facebook for more updates


Regional News

Spring Creek Canyon, Utah

Spring Creek Canyon, Utah

Spring Creek Canyon – What makes this canyon and the surrounding Hurricane Cliffs so special is its geographic location at the transition of the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin geologic provinces, giving rise to a unique collection of plant species.
Deep Green Resistance Colorado member Deanna Meyer interviewed on Resistance Radio – Recently she has been involved in advocating for the forests in her area as well as the rapidly disappearing prairie dogs throughout the mid-west. She elieves that the strategies and tactics of people who care about the living planet must shift from asking nicely to defending those they love by any and all means necessary.
More Than Words – The race to save a Northern Paiute dialect that’s down to a handful of speakers reveals what we stand to lose when a language dies.
Tell the BLM that you care about wildlands in southwestern Utah (petition)
Bighorn Sheep Die-off in Montana Mountains, Nevada
A Biocentrist History of the West – Wildlife Services, a branch of the Department of Agriculture, acts as “the hired guns of the livestock industry.”
USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife (video)
Even more about Wildlife Services and how they torture dogs and kill endangered species
A New Study Suggests Even the Toughest Pesticide Regulations Aren’t Nearly Tough Enough – The industrial agriculture system is violent. It murders humans and so many other beings – entire living communities. Policy-makers such as those in this article covering the UCLA study – people who maintain the validity of this systematic murder – are culpable and must be held accountable.
How big oil spent $10m to defeat California climate change legislation
In Utah, a massive water project is gaining ground – The project could divert 86,000 acre-feet from Lake Powell to the retirement community of St. George.
Massive Gas Pipeline Project Endures in Texas – Even in oil and gas friendly Texas, there is a growing outcry about the egregious abuse of landowners rights’ carried out by the company behind a new gas pipeline.
In Parts of the West, Grazing Cattle Are Making the Drought Worse
Lost Bones, Damage and Harassment at Ancient Sacred Site

Follow the DGR Southwest Coalition Facebook page for more news.


Deep Green Resistance News Service Excerpts

Derrick Jensen Interviewed About Deep Green Resistance, “Transphobia,” and More

Recognizing Greenwashing comes down to what so many indigenous people have said to me: we have to decolonize our hearts and minds. We have to shift our loyalty away from the system and toward the landbase and the natural world. So the central question is: where is the primary loyalty of the people involved? Is it to the natural world, or to the system?

What do all the so-called solutions for global warming have in common? They take industrialization, the economic system, and colonialism as a given; and expect the natural world to conform to industrial capitalism. That’s literally insane, out of touch with physical reality. There has been this terrible coup where sustainability doesn’t mean sustaining the natural ecosystem, but instead means sustaining the economic system.

Police Intimidation: From Dalton Trumbo to Deep Green Resistance

Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security agents have contacted more than a dozen members of Deep Green Resistance (DGR), a radical environmental group, including one of its leaders, Lierre Keith, who said she has been the subject of two visits from the FBI at her home.

DGR, formed about four years ago, requires its members to adhere to what the group calls a “security culture” in order to reduce the amount of paranoia and fear that often comes with radical activism. On its website, DGR explains why it is important not to talk to police agents: “It doesn’t matter whether you are guilty or innocent. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. Never talk to police officers, FBI agents, Homeland Security, etc. It doesn’t matter if you believe you are telling police officers what they already know. It doesn’t matter if you just chit chat with police officers. Any talking to police officers, FBI agents, etc. will almost certainly harm you or others.”

Derrick Jensen: To Protect and Serve

So here’s the question: if the police are not legally obligated to protect us and our communities — or if the police are failing to do so, or if it is not even their job to do so — then if we and our communities are to be protected, who, precisely is going to do it? To whom does that responsibility fall? I think we all know the answer to that one.

If police are the servants of governments, and if governments protect corporations better than they do human beings (and far better than they do the planet), then clearly it falls to us to protect our communities and the landbases on which we in our communities personally and collectively depend. What would it look like if we created our own community groups and systems of justice to stop the murder of our landbases and the total toxification of our environment? It would look a little bit like precisely the sort of revolution we need if we are to survive. It would look like our only hope.

Derrick Jensen: Calling All Fanatics

I’ve always kind of hated that quote by Edward Abbey about being a half-hearted fanatic (“Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast . . . a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic”). Not so much because of the racism and misogyny that characterized some of his work. And not even because of the quote itself. But rather because of how that quote has been too often misused by people who put too much emphasis on the half-hearted, and not nearly enough emphasis on the fanatic.

The fundamental truth of our time is that this culture is killing the planet. We can quibble all we want — and quibble too many do — about whether it is killing the planet or merely causing one of the six or seven greatest mass extinctions in the past several billion years, but no reasonable person can argue that industrial civilization is not grievously injuring life on Earth.

Given that fact, you’d think most people would be doing everything they can to protect life on this planet — the only life, to our knowledge, in the universe. Sadly, you’d be wrong.

Beyond Flint, Michigan: The Navajo Water Crisis

Recent media coverage and spiraling public outrage over the water crisis in Flint, Michigan has completely eclipsed the ongoing environmental justice struggles of the Navajo. Even worse, the media continues to frame the situation in Flint as some sort of isolated incident.

Madeline Stano, attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, assessed the situation for the San Diego Free Press, commenting, “Unfortunately, Flint’s water scandal is a symptom of a much larger disease. It’s far from an isolated incidence, in the history of Michigan itself and in the country writ large.”


Deep Green Resistance: a quote from the book

At this moment, the liberal basis of most progressive movements is impeding our ability, individually and collectively, to take action. The individualism of liberalism, and of American society generally, renders too many of us unable to think clearly about our dire situation. Individual action is not an effective response to power because human society is political; by definition it is build from groups, not from individuals. That is not to say that individual acts of physical and intellectual courage can’t spearhead movements. But Rosa Parks didn’t end segregations on the Montgomery, Alabama bus system. Rosa Parks plus the stalwart determination and strategic savvy of the entire black community did.


2014-02-28-build-and-strengthenPlease join us or provide material support to make Deep Green Resistance possible.

Lake Mead watch: six inches from the level that triggers cutbacks

Editor’s Note: This originally appeared on High Country News.  

Deep Green Resistance chapters across the Southwest have declared water protection and justice our primary focus.  Join us in dismantling the systems that would leave our planet dry and lifeless.

If water curtailments go into effect, which states are most vulnerable, and why?

Sarah Tory, June 17, 2015

Record rain across much of the West in May has provided Lake Mead with a much-needed boost – alleviating concerns about possible cutbacks in water deliveries from the nation’s largest reservoir. But a month of rain does not solve Mead’s falling water levels. For nearly two decades, the reservoir, which straddles the Arizona-Nevada border, has been shrinking due to prolonged drought and over-allocation. Mead hasn’t been full since 1998 at 1,221 feet above sea level and in the past 15 years alone, it has dropped 135 feet. Now it’s 37 percent full and just six inches away from reaching the 1,075-foot threshold that triggers cutbacks in deliveries for the three lower basin states – Arizona, Nevada and California – all of which depend heavily on Colorado River water stored in Lake Mead. (The trigger point doesn’t apply to the Upper Basin states of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.)

But as long as the surface level is at least 1,075 feet above sea level when crucial measurements are taken in January 2016, those cutbacks will be avoided. If not, the Secretary of the Interior will declare a shortage in Lake Mead and the curtailed deliveries, along with other water rationing measures, will go into effect early next year.

http://www.hcn.org/articles/what-really-happens-if-lake-mead-stays-below-the-1-075-ft-mark/www.thebathtubring.weebly.com
On June 15, the Bureau of Reclamation predicted that Lake Mead will be at 1,081.58 feet by the end of 2015, above the benchmark level that would trigger water curtailments. That’s an improvement from last month when the Bureau was predicting Mead would be at 1,075.96 feet, said Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the bureau’s Lower Colorado Region.

So, what happens to the Lower Basin states if the Interior Department declares an official shortage in Lake Mead? According to the Colorado River Interim Guidelines, a 2007 agreement to address water shortages:

Arizona will face the biggest curtailment of annual water deliveries from Lake Mead. Its 2.8 million acre-feet will be cut by 370,000 acre-feet (one acre-foot is enough to supply two average homes for a year), a 13 percent reduction. Farmers who rely on water piped east by the Central Arizona Project, whose water rights are the most junior, will be the hardest hit. Farmers along the western edge of the state who use water from the main stem of the Colorado River won’t be affected by the first round of curtailments. Neither will tribes, industrial users or major cities. Overall the short-term economic impact will be slight, said Michael Cohen, an expert on water use in the Colorado River basin at the Pacific Institute, a water-policy think tank. That’s because Arizona has stored more than 3 million acre-feet of water underground, providing farmers with a back-up supply that will soften the impacts of a shortage.

Next in line is Nevada, which faces a 13,000-acre-feet reduction to its usual 300,000 acre-feet delivery from Lake Mead, a 4 percent cut.

California, meanwhile, can keep withdrawing its full allotment from Lake Mead. This dates back to the negotiations during the ’60s between Arizona and California over the Central Arizona Project, a massive aqueduct that pumps water 336 miles from the Colorado River into central and southern Arizona. To get the project approved by Congress, Arizona needed California’s help. But California saw that at some point there might not be enough water to go around, so it decided to support Arizona’s bid only if Arizona agreed to take more junior water rights.

But California’s deal isn’t as sweet as it sounds. A recent report called ‘The Bathtub Ring’ from graduate students at the University of California, Santa Barbara in conjunction with the Western Water Policy Program, shows that, although California is exempt from the first round of curtailments, 13 million people in Los Angeles are still among the most vulnerable. That’s because the state currently consumes its full Lake Mead allotment and also relies on bonus water it gets through efficiency measures. The program that allows them extra water in exchange for conserving will be put on hold when curtailments go into effect. That means L.A.’s Metropolitan Water District will lose its ability to draw on 662,000 acre-feet annually of surplus water.

Declining water levels in Lake Mead have created its trademark 'bathtub ring' around the edge of the reservoir. Bill and Vicki T/Flickr

Nevada will be largely immune to the first round of delivery cuts from Lake Mead. Though the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which provides for nearly 2 million people in Las Vegas, gets 90 percent of its water from the reservoir, the state gets credit for water it reuses. So if a provider pumps 5,000 acre-feet from the reservoir, but then treats 3,000 acre-feet and returns the treated water to Lake Mead, it’s only on the books for 2,000 acre-feet. Even with the curtailment, the state’s return flow credit program allows Nevada to keep its consumptive water use below its allotted amount.

Should the water levels continue to drop below the 1,075 foot mark, as they are expected to in years to come, more cuts will be required. Below 1,025 feet, the Lower Basin states will have to negotiate new water shortage guidelines.

Sarah Tory is an editorial fellow at High Country News.

SW Energy responsible for oil spill in Green River–second spill from old well

First Published May 28 2014 07:16 pm • Last Updated May 29 2014 02:03 pm

It likely will take crews another week to finish scraping oil-contaminated dirt and rocks from Salt Wash, a dry streambed on public land 12 miles south of Green River that was filled with thousands of barrels of an oil-water mix when an oil well failed last week.

Heavy rainfall Friday night breached the emergency dams erected to contain the oil, and a small amount flowed into the Green River, said an on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Curtis Kimbel, from the EPA’s Region 8 office in Denver, said he arrived Saturday after crews had stopped the flow into the river.

He was told by those working to contain the spill that only a small amount — a matter of gallons, rather than barrels — reached the river, which is running high with the spring runoff, he said.

“The important thing is once it was discovered, modifications were put into place to make sure no more got into the river,” Kimbel said Wednesday. “We’re confident the material is now contained in the wash.”

Oil spill sheen on Green River

Oil spill sheen on Green River. Photo by Jim Collar.

Beth Ransel, Moab field manager for the Bureau of Land Management, said BLM technicians are inspecting the river banks, and the National Park Service plans to float the river to inspect it for any residue in the water or along the banks.

While it’s unknown how much oil made it into the river, she said, those on site believe it was small because there were only small pools of oil and oil-coated rocks left when the severe rains hit.

The conclusion that only a small amount reached the river is being challenged by at least one area resident, Jim Collar, a software developer based in Moab who was camping on the rim above the Green River Friday night.

Collar shot photos of what he and his friends believe was oil film from the rim of Labyrinth Canyon at the Bow Knot, a famous bend on the Green River.

“On Saturday morning when I got up, I took my camera to the canyon rim to take some pictures. I was startled to find this oil sheen on the river,” which was about 1,000 feet below, he said. “It was very visible. It was river wide, wall to wall. It was there when we left the next day.”

The spot is 15 to 20 river miles downstream from where Salt Wash enters the Green.

John Weisheit, conservation director of Living Rivers and the Colorado Riverkeeper, said, “This pollution is unacceptable,” and called it a sign that oil companies and their regulators are not doing their jobs.

The Green River joins the Colorado River downstream from the spill, flows into Lake Powell, through the Grand Canyon, into Lake Mead and onto the farms of California’s Imperial Valley and into the taps of millions of people in Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego, he said.

“Is this a drinking water system or not? It is. Start acting like it,” he said. “Protect our watersheds. The people downstream need to know that.”

Kimbel said it’s not clear how much oil and water escaped after the rupture, which was discovered May 21. The 45-year-old well belongs to SW Energy of Salt Lake City. The company did not immediately return a phone call left at its office on Wednesday.

According to the BLM, an estimated 80 to 100 barrels of the oil-water mixture streamed, each hour, into the Salt Wash about four miles from where it reaches the Green River. The flow continued for 30 hours before crews were able to dump in several truckloads of a high-density mud to seal the well Thursday afternoon.

Based on those estimates, the spill could have been 2,560 to 3,000 barrels, or up to 126,000 gallons of the oil-water mixture. Ransel at the BLM, however, cautioned against such a conclusion. “There are a lot of unknowns about the amount coming out of the well,” she said.

The well operator had used vacuum trucks to suck up much of the spilled oil-water mixture by Thursday, and built berms and placed absorbent materials in the wash to prevent the oil from reaching the Green River.

Heavy rain Friday night, however, breached the dams closest to the river. Rainwater rushed over the oil-coated rocks and picked up small pools of oil that were in the wash about a mile or so from the river, according to Ransel and the BLM’s updates about the spill on its website. The BLM oversees the oil lease and the surrounding land.

New dams stopped the flow Saturday, and those did not fail during rainstorms that night, Kimbel said.

Kimbel said he and representatives from SW Energy, the BLM and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining “walked the entire area several times” and came up with a strategy to remove all contaminated material from the wash.

There are no culinary wells in the area, he said.

A number of pieces of heavy equipment are now working in the wash to remove rock, sand and dirt, which will be taken to a landfill certified to take such contaminated material.

Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Linked to Fracking Found in Colorado River

The Colorado River flows through the town of Rifle in Garfield County, Colorado. Photo (taken 1972) by David Hiser,courtesy of U.S. National Archives, Flickr/Creative Commons.

The Colorado River flows through the town of Rifle in Garfield County, Colorado. Photo (taken 1972) by David Hiser, courtesy of U.S. National Archives, Flickr/Creative Commons.

Original article by Sandra Postel, National Geographic

 

This week, more evidence came in that hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) poses potentially serious risks to drinking water quality and human health.

A team of researchers from the University of Missouri found evidence of hormone-disrupting activity in water located near fracking sites – including samples taken from the Colorado River near a dense drilling region of western Colorado.

The Colorado River is a source of drinking water for more than 30 million people.

The peer-reviewed study was published this week in the journal Endocrinology.

Fracking is the controversial process of blasting water mixed with sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressure so as to fracture rock and release the oil and gas it holds. It has made previously inaccessible fossil fuel reserves economical to tap, and drilling operations have spread rapidly across the country.

The University of Missouri team found that 11 chemicals commonly used in the fracking process are “endocrine disrupters” – compounds that can affect the human hormonal system and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and infertility.

“More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function,” said Dr. Susan Nagel, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health at the University of Missouri School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, in a news release.

“With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.”

The research team collected samples from ground water and surface water from sites in Garfield County, Colorado, where fracking fluids had accidentally spilled, as well as from the nearby Colorado River, into which local streams and groundwater drain. They also took samples from other areas of Garfield County where little drilling has taken place, as well as from a county in Missouri where there had been no drilling at all.

They found that the samples from the spill site had moderate-to-high levels of endocrine-disrupting activity, and the Colorado River samples had moderate levels.  The other two samples, taken from areas with little or no drilling activity, showed low levels of endocrine-disrupting activity.

The new findings add urgency to calls for moratoriums on fracking until the risks have been fully assessed and regulations and monitoring put in place to safeguard water supplies and public health.

Due to the so-called “Halliburton loophole,” the oil and gas industry is exempt from important requirements under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and states have been slow to fill the regulatory gap.

Colorado, in particular, should exercise the utmost caution.

According to a report by Ceres, a Boston-based non-profit organization that educates investors about corporate environmental risks, 92 percent of Colorado’s shale gas and oil wells are located in “extremely high” water stress regions, defined as areas in which cities, industries and farms are already using 80 percent or more of available water.

Adding contamination risks to the high volume of water fracking wells require – typically 4-6 million gallons per well – argues strongly for a precautionary approach to future development and a pause in existing production until the full range of environmental health risks can be assessed.

But Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has said the state will sue any city that bans fracking within its borders.  Indeed, in July 2012, the state sued the front-range town of Longmont, which had issued such a ban.

A statement about the new findings of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in waters near fracking sites issued by Concerned Health Professionals of New York, and posted here, concludes with this warning:

“These results, which are based on validated cell cultures, demonstrate that public health concerns about fracking are well-founded and extend to our hormone systems. The stakes could not be higher. Exposure to EDCs has been variously linked to breast cancer, infertility, birth defects, and learning disabilities. Scientists have identified no safe threshold of exposure for EDCs, especially for pregnant women, infants, and children.”

And environmental health expert Sandra Steingraber writes in a letter posted at the same site:

“[I]t seems to me, the ethical response on the part of the environmental health community is to reissue a call that many have made already:  hit the pause button via a national moratorium on high volume, horizontal drilling and fracking and commence a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment with full public participation.”

 

 

 

A Slow-Motion Colorado River Disaster

The high water mark for Lake Mead is seen on Hoover Dam and its spillway near Boulder City, Nev. After back-to-back driest years in a century on the Colorado River, federal water managers are announcing a historic step to slow the flow of water from a massive reservoir upstream of the Grand Canyon to the huge Lake Mead reservoir behind Hoover Dam near Las Vegas. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press / April 15, 2013)

The high water mark for Lake Mead is seen on Hoover Dam and its spillway near Boulder City, Nev. After back-to-back driest years in a century on the Colorado River, federal water managers are announcing a historic step to slow the flow of water from a massive reservoir upstream of the Grand Canyon to the huge Lake Mead reservoir behind Hoover Dam near Las Vegas. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press / April 15, 2013)

Original article by Craig Mackey, Los Angeles Times


On Aug. 7, the head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority called for federal disaster relief to address the consequences of water scarcity in the Colorado River system. On Friday, the Bureau of Reclamation announced it would be forced to cut the flow of water into Lake Mead in 2014 to a historic low. Dominoes may now fall from California to Washington, D.C.

A nearly century-old body of agreements and legal decisions known as the Law of the River regulates water distribution from the Colorado River among seven states and Mexico. Two major reservoirs help collect and distribute that water. Lake Mead disburses water to Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico. Mead gets its water from Lake Powell, which collects its water from Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. For the first time, Lake Powell releases will fall below 8.23 million acre-feet of water, to 7.48 million acre-feet, potentially reducing allotments down the line and setting off a cascade of significant consequences.

First, if recent dry weather in the Colorado River basin continues, declining water levels in Lake Powell could cut off power production at Glen Canyon Dam as early as winter 2015, affecting power supply and pricing in six states.

Second, less water coming into Lake Mead from Lake Powell may bring the level in Mead below an intake pipe that delivers water to Las Vegas by spring 2015. The Southern Nevada Water Authority has been racing to construct a deeper intake pipe by the end of 2014.

By winter 2015, Lake Mead also may dip to a level that would result in a major decline in power generation at Hoover Dam. That would affect the supply and cost of power for consumers in Nevada, Arizona and California. Southern California uses below-market-rate power from Hoover Dam to pump water to its cities and farms; if the region was forced to buy market-rate electricity from elsewhere, the price of water for Southern California consumers would surely rise.

These Bureau of Reclamation projections prompted Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, to call for federal disaster relief to mitigate the situation. She wasn’t specific about how much money would be needed or how it would be used, but disaster relief could go toward completing Las Vegas’ new intake pipe project, or for things like paying farmers to temporarily fallow their fields as a means to get more water in the reservoirs, or to finance a controversial new groundwater project in the region. Mulroy referenced Superstorm Sandy and said: “Does a drought not rise to the same level of a storm? The potential damage is just as bad.”

If anything, Mulroy is understating the situation. What’s at stake on the Colorado River, in addition to increased power and water costs, is drinking water for 36 million Americans, irrigation water for 15% of our nation’s crops and a $26-billion recreation economy that employs a quarter of a million Americans.

“Disaster relief” implies temporary measures, but the drought in the Southwest is not an isolated incident; it is a long-term reality. We need strong measures to head off further disaster, not just aid to help address the aftermath.

Demand on the Colorado River’s water exceeds supply. According to a 2012 Bureau of Reclamation study, average river flow could decrease by nearly 10% by mid-century. Carrying on with business as usual by continuing to build new diversions from the river and failing to significantly improve the efficiency with which we use the river’s water is akin to rebuilding wiped-out beach homes after a hurricane and then beckoning another storm to come in and destroy those homes again (requiring, of course, another government bailout).

Fortunately, that 2012 Colorado River study determined that urban and agricultural water conservation and recycling, along with market-based measures like water banking, are cost-effective measures that can lead the way to a secure water future for the Southwest. The Department of the Interior has convened a process with the seven Colorado River states and other interests to determine the next steps on water conservation and improving river flows. A report from the group should arrive next year. A robust plan is needed from this process to ensure a successful economic future for the Southwest, or else the dominoes will fall.

Craig Mackey is co-director of Protect the Flows, a network of businesses that advocates for healthy flows in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times