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The Sand Stays, The Water Remains: Can Nevada and Utah Keep Their Aquifers, Rivers Intact?

The Californiacation of Utah and Nevada’s water is happening right before our eyes. The question is: What are we going to do about it?

For the past few weeks, an old Armenian proverb has stuck with me: The water goes. The sand remains. I came across that line in Mark Arax’s book “Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California.”
The book is a clear-eyed view of California’s water history – from the onset of Western Expansion to the present-day almond/pistachio craze. The book highlights the problems of over-allocated water resources, showcases how powerful forces squeeze water from scarce supplies when others cannot, and underscores the futility in trading farming for urban sprawl.

Arax objectively targets what he views as California’s problem: Greed.
Yes, it’s an easy target. But it is that simple. When greed overrides all other principles, we will only beget more greed. One line near the end of the book provoked me: “No society in history has gone to greater lengths to deny its fundamental nature than California.”

He’s not incorrect.

The Central Valley and State Water Projects exemplify that. But Nevada and Utah seem to be running a close second and third as it relates to Western states. As our aquifers shrink, rivers shrivel, and springs subside, elected officials and un-elected technocrats keep telling us that there’s more water for more people in the nation’s two driest states. Their plan? Kick out farmers, subvert the law, and build more pipelines to rob wild-life, plant life and human life from enjoying local water. Under that logic there would be more water. The problem, however, is that it’s not new. It already belongs to someone or something else. In recent months, we’ve seen officials herald proposals to commoditize water in Nevada via “water banks” while the congressional delegation issues a proposal to sell off 42,000 acres of public lands for sprawl in Vegas. In Utah, the Legislature created a shadowy governmental body to siphon water away from the shrinking Colorado River and officials continue to advocate for project that will steal water from Snake Valley (via Pine and Wah Wah Valleys) in order to build homes and shopping malls in Cedar City.

As you read this, be grateful that we’re not California. But remember that our officials are allowing us to imitate its behavior. Since I last wrote, the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index began trading futures. I have to wonder: are Nevada and Utah next on Wall Street’s list? It sure seems like some people in power want us to be. Please know that GBWN is your voice. We will say what others can’t. We will fight when others won’t. We’re here to work for you.

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