Water Transfers: The Case Against Transbasin Diversions in the Eastern States
32 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2007 Last revised: 21 Nov 2008
Date Written: November 19, 2008
Water policy in the western states consistently has embraced a nineteenth century, supply-side mentality, requiring cities and other water providers to satisfy an ever-growing demand for water at virtually any cost. As a result, the western states rely upon thousands of engineered water transfers-even siphoning water from one side of mountain ranges to the other-in an unsustainable attempt to support growth. This article challenges the conventional reliance upon transbasin diversions as a response to shortage. It argues that importing water from distant watersheds lulls growing communities into a false sense of security, subsidizes unsustainable growth, and exacts significant social, economic, and environmental costs. Although this article recognizes the infeasibility of reducing western reliance upon existing large-scale transfers, it offers an alternative paradigm for the eastern states, as many of them begin to face the limits of existing water supplies. This article argues that communities could achieve water independence by shifting to a demand-side model and by nourishing the living rivers essential to both human and natural ecosystems.
Keywords: water, transbasin diversion, interbasin transfer, concurrency, wet growth
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