Thursday, February 22, 2007

For Emptiness, for Sustainable Water Tables

Is it news that there's drought in Arizona?

Shockingly, it is.

After decades of untrammeled growth, Arizona (and places like it) may be in for a period of adjustment. Residents of its desert lands are increasingly forced to confront one uncomfortable fact: there's no water in an ocean of sand.

Trace the problem back to a pair of very American factors: the pursuit of cheap land; and the pursuit of hidden subsidies (some say they are the same). Unlike residents in densely populated, heavily taxed corridors, folks who live (often quite comfortably) in the far reaches of the Great American Sprawl rely on several species of freeloading.

The most important in the Southwest, and the least supportable, is that they rely on the nearly free (to them) importation of water. In order to enjoy both constant warm sun and a constant supply of wet stuff to bathe in, historically they have hornswaggled the federal government into building massive, expensive water works projects. The ecological ruin these systems bring is well documented--but if it lets you build a very profitable golf course in Dry Gulch USA, who cares? Right?

Now, perhaps, Nature calls in the bet--for it seems severe drought is really the geological norm in these climes. Consequently it will be even drier there than it is now. As a nation, we continue to fund expensive water so that FreeSprawlers can pretend in their golf carts that they're not on welfare. But we probably can't afford to support their fantasy for very much longer. Will the sprinklers soon run dry on the putting green?

Wake up, FreeSprawlers, and get ready to move someplace more sustainable. In the end, it will have been for the best, at least for those who pay for your subsidized water.