Farming in Callao

Monday, October 23, 2006

Water-induced economic collapse?

Water-induced economic collapse of CA? by Mark Bird, featured in the online version of the Water Conditioning and Purification, describes a horrible scenario of economic doom for California, precipitated by water shortages. Mark Bird is a professor at the Community College of Southern Nevada and has been active in opposing the Las Vegas water exportation scheme. Just as there are many spooky parallels between the Los Angeles water grab in Owens Valley and the Las Vegas scheme, there also may be similar parallels between the scenario Bird outlines and the out-of-control growth of Las Vegas and the extreme need to find more water to feed it. Water scarcity is becoming one of the major problems of the US Southwest.

Bird's conclusions:

California has been using over 100 percent of its Colorado River allocation, but other Colorado River states may soon be using their full allotment, resulting in a cut back to California. California also has been using over 100 percent of its annual renewable groundwater. Global warming and litigation will thwart any solution. The paper outlines several hydrological and sociological factors and the conclusion warns of a statewide collapse if even half of the factors are erroneous. Some of the factors have been known for more than a decade without solutions being implemented. Even modest solutions would not guarantee averting a collapse.

As early as 2008 California could start experiencing:

  • Declining water levels triggering 10-50 percent increases in all urban water bills.
  • A year or two later, water bills increasing by 50-100 %.
  • A year or two later, still declining water levels increasing power bills and hydroelectric shortages by 50%.
  • Prices for southern California food increasing by 50 %.
  • Frequent $500 fines for home water waste.
  • Cities charging a $10,000 fee for new home water connections.
  • Declining water quality causing a variety of health problems.
  • Thousands of water-intensive businesses closing.
  • Unemployment, crime and civil unrest increasing.
  • Hundreds of thousands fleeing California.
Bird acknowledges a fair degree of uncertainty. He also states human nonintervention may accelerate the collapse--or prudent human intervention may still prevent it.

Mark gives his blessing on putting this information here and adds:

For both Nevada and Utah, water scarcity could get worse for both states but there also are several solutions that could benefit both Nevada and Utah.

For Utah, a further decline of Lake Powell has clear signs of less water, less power, and less recreation. But Utah benefits by the farm, desalting, and five percent reduction of river water to all river states.

Mark Bird, a professor at the Community College of Southern Nevada, is an author of over 30 water-related articles including "$000 Cost Desalination" in WC&P, April 2005. In 1993, he wrote an article on the collapse of another state entitled "How Global Warming Will Impact Louisiana." Bird can be reached at email:

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