Monday August 15, 2022


The California water wars of the early twentieth century are summed up in a famous line from the 1974 film Chinatown: “Either you bring the water to L.A., or you bring L.A. to the water.” Nearly a hundred years have elapsed since the events the film dramatizes, but much of the West still approaches water the same way. If you don’t have enough of it, go find more.

As politicians across the West confront the consequences of the climate-fueled Millennium Drought, many of them are heeding the words of Chinatown and trying to bring in outside water through massive capital projects. There are at least half a dozen major water pipeline projects under consideration throughout the region, ranging from ambitious to outlandish. Arizona lawmakers want to build a pipeline from the Mississippi River more than a thousand miles away, a Colorado rancher wants to pipe water 300 miles across the Rockies, and Utah wants to pump even more water out of the already-depleted Lake Powell.

Proponents of these projects argue that they could stabilize western cities for decades to come, connecting populations with unclaimed water rights. Their detractors counter that, in an era of permanent aridification driven by climate change, the only sustainable solution is not to bring in more water, but to consume less of it. Either way, most of these projects stand little chance of becoming reality — they’re ideas from a bygone era, one that has more in common with the world of Chinatown than the parched west of the present.

Read more >

Link copied successfully