A day or two ago someone Tweeted a link to a paper by Peter H. Gleick, Roadmap for sustainable water rersources in southwestern North America, from PNAS, December 2010.
I immediately thought, 'I must've missed this one,' and started to read the abstract:
The management of water resources in arid and semiarid areas has long been a challenge, from ancient Mesopotamia to the modern southwestern United States. As our understanding of the hydrological and climatological cycles has improved, and our ability to manipulate the hydrologic cycle has increased, so too have the challenges associated with managing a limited natural resource for a growing pop- ulation. Modern civilization has made remarkable progress in water management in the past few centuries. Burgeoning cities now survive in desert regions, relying on a mix of simple and complex technologies and management systems to bring adequate water and remove wastewater. These systems have permitted agricultural production and urban concentrations to expand in regions previously thought to have inadequate moisture. However, evidence is also mounting that our current management and use of water is unsustainable. Physical, economic, and ecological limits constrain the development of new supplies and additional water withdrawals, even in regions not pre- viously thought vulnerable to water constraints. New kinds of limits are forcing water managers and policy makers to rethink previous assumptions about population, technology, regional planning, and forms of development. In addition, new threats, especially the chal- lenges posed by climatic changes, are now apparent. Sustainably managing and using water in arid and semiarid regions such as the southwestern United States will require new thinking about water in an interdisciplinary and integrated way. The good news is that a wide range of options suggest a roadmap for sustainable water management and use in the coming decades.
Here is the introductory paper by Glen M. MacDonald:
The current Southwest drought is exceptional for its high temperatures and arguably the most severe in history. Coincidentally, there has been an increase in forest and woodland mortality due to fires and pathogenic outbreaks. Although the high temperatures and aridity are consistent with projected impacts of greenhouse warming, it is unclear whether the drought can be attributed to increased greenhouse gasses or is a product of natural climatic variability. Climate models indicate that the 21st century will be increasingly arid and droughts more severe and prolonged. Forest and woodland mortality due to fires and pathogens will increase. Demography and food security dictate that water demand in the Southwest will remain appreciable. If projected population growth is twinned with suburb-centered development, domestic demands will intensify. Meeting domestic demands through transference from agriculture presents concerns for rural sustainability and food security. Environmental concerns will limit additional transference from rivers. It is unlikely that traditional supply-side solutions such as more dams will securely meet demands at current per-capita levels. Significant savings in domestic usage can be realized through decreased applications of potable water to landscaping, but this is a small fraction of total regional water use, which is dominated by agriculture. Technical innovations, policy measures, and market-based solutions that increase supply and decrease water demand are all needed. Meeting 21st-century sustainability challenges in the Southwest will also require planning, cooperation, and integration that surpass 20th-century efforts in terms of geographic scope, jurisdictional breadth, multisectoral engagement, and the length of planning timelines.
Water, climate change and sustainability and the Southwest, Glen M. MacDonald
Reclaiming freshwater sustainability in the Cadillac Desert, John L. Sabo, Tushar Sinha, Laura C. Bowling, Gerrit H. W. Schoups, Wesley W. Wallender, Michael E. Campana, Keith A. Cherkauer, Pam L. Fuller, William L. Graf, Jan W. Hopmans, John S. Kominoski, Carissa Taylor, Stanley W. Trimble, Robert H. Webb, and Ellen E. Wohl
Future dryness in the southwest US and the hydrology of the early 21st century drought, Daniel R. Cayan, Tapash Das, David W. Pierce, Tim P. Barnett, Mary Tyree, and Alexander Gershunov
Greenhouse warming and the 21st century hydroclimate of southwestern North America, Richard Seager and Gabriel A. Vecchi
A 1,200-year perspective of 21st century drought in southwestern North America,
Connie A. Woodhouse, David M. Meko, Glen M. MacDonald, Dave W. Stahle, and Edward R. Cook
Forest responses to increasing aridity and warmth in the southwestern United States, A. Park Williams, Craig D. Allen, Constance I. Millar, Thomas W. Swetnam, Joel Michaelsen, Christopher J. Still, and Steven W. Leavitt
Vulnerability assessment of climate-induced water shortage in Phoenix, Patricia Gober and Craig W. Kirkwood
I suspect these other papers, along with Peter Gleick's and the one by Sabo et al. on Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert predictions, can still inform us about the pressing - worse than 2010, for sure - water issues in the Southwest USA.
"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." - Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr ("The more things change, the more they stay the same.")