With both surface [water] and groundwater supplies severely limited and no relief in sight, Phoenix declares a stage-four water emergency, its highest level. The state legislature rescinds the Groundwater Management Act. Voluntary reductions having long since failed to conserve enough water, Phoenix enforces rationing. Watering lawns, washing cars, and splashing in water parks are distant memories. The two hundred golf courses in Phoenix and Scottsdale have been closed for years, their verdant fairways and manicured greens blown away on the hot dry wind. Valves attached to water meters automatically shut off the flow when consumption exceeds the limit. Armed water police with the authority to shut off valves and make arrests patrol neighborhoods. Phoenix doubles the price of water to residences, raises it even more for the heaviest water users, and prohibits new water hook-ups. Home construction shuts down and the once-booming central Arizona real estate market collapses. As tax revenues decline, Phoenix runs short of funds and rating agencies reclassify its bonds as junk.
Following Nevada's example, Phoenix begins to build a desalting plant on the Sea of Cortés. But as the border crisis intensifies, and with its own water supplies at dangerous lows, Mexico nationalizes all American-owned factories in the country, including the desalting plants and the maquiladoras. By the 2020s, with water, the stuff of life at stake, it is every nation for itself.
Businesses and families begin to abandon Phoenix, creating a Grapes of Wrath-like exodus in reverse. Long lines of vehicles clog the freeways, heading east towards the Mississippi and north toward Oregon and Washington. Burning hot, parched, and broke, the city that rose from the ashes achieves its apogee and falls back toward the fire. -- Dead Pool, by James Lawrence Powell pp. 239-240.
These three paragraphs conclude the penultimate chapter, "River of Law", of James Lawrence Powell's Dead Pool, a book that might be viewed as a 21st-century sequel (or perhaps 'epilogue' is a better term), to Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert. Like Reisner's seminal book, Dead Pool should serve as a wake-up call to start the considering the possible fate of the "hydraulic society" we've constructed in the Southwest.
Powell's book leads me to believe that my quest for someone who's "thinking about the unthinkable" has ended. But like the dog who finally catches a car he's been chasing, I'm not sure what I will do now.
Dead Pool focuses on the Colorado River Basin and its future, given the specter of climate change and its effects. As you can see from the above, he's not especially optimistic, especially given the fact that for a number of years, the USA Southwest, the driest part of the country, is also the fastest-growing. The housing/sub-prime mortgage crisis and the current economic downturn will likely put a dent in the growth rates, but I don't think you'll find many people worrying that the very hot, dry future that Powell posits could drive people away.
This post is simply to whet your appetite; I'll post more on Powell's book shortly.
"God created both man and nature. And man serves God. But nature serves man...To have a deep blue lake [Lake Powell], where no lake was before, seems to bring man a little closer to God." -- Floyd Dominy, Commissioner (1959-1969), U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, quoted in Dead Pool, p. 136