Monday, July 23, 2007


Perhaps the worst outcome from the Southern Nevada Water Authority's publicly financed lobbying for unchecked growth in Las Vegas is that they will succeed. The agency's efforts to dry up rural Nevada to support more slots and tract housing could bring millions more to the desert. But the effort practically defines the word "unsustainable." What happens when the "fossil" water of the rural aquifers dries up? The threat of an urban apocolypse looms.
While locally such scenarios are dismissed by the developers and their enablers in the water agencies, that isn't true internationally. The United Nations Environmental Programme, among others, have warned of the environmental damage that will occur if the SNWA plan continues. A recent story in Canada's Toronto Star made similar warnings, while suggesting, logically, that development might be better located in those areas of the world that still have abundant natural resources:

And as the Southwest and parts of the Southeast grapple with historic drought, water supply depletion – earlier this year, Lake Okeechobee in Florida, a primary water source for the Everglades, caught fire – and the creeping sense that, with climate change, things can only get worse, a new reality is dawning: that logic, finally, will have a larger role to play in human migratory dynamics, continent-wide. With it come not just doomsday scenarios, but for certain urban centres left for dead in the post-industrial quagmire, a chance at new life.
"Sticking a straw in the Great Lakes is not a solution to Phoenix's water problems," says Robert Shibley, director of the Urban Design Project at the State University of New York at Buffalo. "Maybe it's time to really think about what constitutes need and stop spending money to build carrying capacity in places that don't have it by nature, and start investing in places that do."
...."You're going to have 150 million people living in at least seven of the major regions that don't have water, don't have carrying capacity, can't feed themselves," Shibley says. "It's an ecological disaster waiting to happen." ...
Some have already taken notice. Last year, The Economist ranked Cleveland the most liveable city in America (26th in the world) based on five categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. Among the booming cities of the Southwest, only Los Angeles and Houston cracked the top 50. Phoenix didn't make the list, falling behind Nairobi, Algiers and Phnomh Penh among the world's top 126 urban centres.

1 comment:

Howard said...

One of the most compelling arguments that could be made against the water grab is that not only will the supplemental water only prolong an unsustainable lifestyle, but that the continuation of our bipolar economy is also unsustainable. Casinos will always play a large part in the economy of Clark County and Las Vegas. Casinos also have at least decent water practices; the most water lost on the strip is probably that which evaporates from the Bellagio fountains' surface. Construction, however, is not going to continue ad infinitum. Even now, the housing industry and all the business connected to it is hurting, despite what our corrupt and inept governor says. When we finish playing Red Queen, running our fastest just to keep pace, and all of sudden we can't supply water and demand for housing dies and real estate stops and lenders get screwed, the economy will have a sudden and massive coranary. Looking towards the future, Las Vegas should take advantage of it's location, ecology, and diversity to become a hub for green technology, in addition to other forms of research and development.