Dueling Drought Stories

The "new normal" in the Southwest is drought, about which we’ll be hearing plenty in the years and decades to come. Even some conservatives, such as the illuminating Rod Dreher, are writing about the fact that Dallas is expected soon to be a Dust Bowl, to the apparent anger and incredulity of most of his readers.

But interestingly, the phenomenon looks different from the coasts. On the left coast, the LATimes runs a "straight" story about the "permanent drought" expected in the Southwest, according to 19 different computer models:

The computer models, on average, found about a 15% decline in surface moisture — which is calculated by subtracting evaporation from precipitation — from 2021 to 2040, as compared with the average from 1950 to 2000.

A 15% drop led to the conditions that caused the Dust Bowl in the Great Plains and the northern Rockies during the 1930s.

The NYTimes begins at the same point–drought in the Southwest–but take a completely different tack, looking at efforts underway to find new sources of water and reallocate existing supplies.

Some $2.5 billion in water projects are planned or under way in four states, the biggest expansion in the West’s quest for water in decades. Among them is a proposed 280-mile pipeline that would direct water to Las Vegas from northern Nevada. A proposed reservoir just north of the California-Mexico border would correct an inefficient water delivery system that allows excess water to pass to Mexico.

The NYTimes version is a little more "optimistic," I suppose, and does take us further down the line of what this news development will mean in the future, but in this case I prefer the simpler, blunter, harder truth. Drought is on its way, as never before, and for many of us, will be with us for the rest of our lives. Why not sit with that a day or two, before we move on to stories about water wars?

[Graphic from Lamont-Doherty lab at Columbia U, which produced the study.]


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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