Editorial Roundup: Drought: Water resources will require more care

Published 8:50 pm Friday, September 2, 2022

This has been the summer of vanishing rivers and drying reservoirs.

Germany has been forced to close much of the Rhine to commercial traffic, a significant economic blow. China’s Yangtze is half its normal width, forcing the curtailment of power generation, beaching vessels and limiting irrigation.

And in the desert of the American Southwest, booming in population, states are squabbling over how to divvy the diminishing supply of water from the Colorado River. Federal water managers have prioritized Lake Powell, the reservoir behind the Glen Canyon Dam, and have essentially drained the smaller reservoirs upstream and let Lake Mead, the reservoir behind the Hoover Dam, decline ever closer to “deadpool” status — the point at which water doesn’t pass through the dam.

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But even those extraordinary measures can work only so long without more water coming into the Colorado’s basin — and there is no real reason to believe the West’s megadrought will break. Some 40 million people rely on the Colorado for drinking, agriculture and electricity, so its rapid decline matters mightily — and considering how much produce comes out of farms watered by the Colorado, it matters outside its basin as well.

A series of letters to the editor this summer in the Desert Sun newspaper of Palm Springs, California, raised the notion that the solution is to divert water from the Mississippi River and/or Great Lakes to the desert southwest. To be sure, there is no reason to believe that any agency or office holder is seriously considering such a water grab, and a legitimate proposal along those lines would ignite a political firestorm difficult to imagine.

An engineer might find the question of how to move billions of gallons of water across the Continental Divide an interesting brain exercise, but the reality is that the Midwest wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, go along with such a gargantuan project.

The plain truth of the matter is that even Minnesota is consuming its groundwater at an unsustainable rate. We may be the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and we are certainly not as arid as Arizona, Utah or California, but our water quality and access issues are genuine.

Rather than a monstrous, multi-billion viaduct that would drain the Midwest to keep desert golf courses green, it would be wiser to design and build thousands of smaller systems — both in the West and in the Midwest — to retain and conserve the excess rain from our increasingly severe downpours. That is the more practical approach.

Mankato Free Press, Aug. 25

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Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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