Wednesday, October 7, 2009

ALP is not, unfortunately, the last of its kind

Durango-area resident and editor of High Country News JonathanThompson this week notes how the Animas-La Plata Project was for a long time called "the last of the great dams," but that today even grander, grosser, and crazier water-diversion schemes are being proposed through out the West.

The upcoming issue of the bi-weekly High Country News will look at a particularly outlandish plan: to divert groundwater from the Great Basin to feed bloated Las Vegas.

Here's what Thompson has to say about the topic and the story:
This summer, on the edge of my hometown of Durango, Colo., water started moving uphill. It was about a century ago that the endeavor to slurp water out of the Animas River and send it to the neighboring and often dry La Plata River was first conceived. After gestating for many decades (and taking on some pretty weird conceptual forms in the process), the Animas-La Plata project's giant pumping plant finally cranked up this June, and sent its first shipment of water to Lake Nighthorse, more than 200 vertical feet above the river.

In the early 1990s -- when its ultimate fate was still uncertain -- the Animas-La Plata project was considered to be the last big water project of its kind in the West. But today, a half-dozen new schemes are on the table, from pulling water out of southwestern Wyoming's Green River for Colorado's Front Range, to a plan to pull water from the dwindling Lake Powell, pump it uphill, and then back downhill to burgeoning St. George, Utah.

The Oct. 12 issue of High Country News focuses on what, for now, is the most contentious of the new generation of Western water projects: The proposal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump water from rural Nevada aquifers, and ship it to Sin City and its sprawl. Acclaimed science writer J. Madeleine Nash takes us to the springs that could be affected by the plan, and introduces to the rare creatures that inhabit the Great Basin's oases. Our crack water reporter, Matt Jenkins, gives us an update on the politics of the plan. And I'm not shy about my opinion: It's time to rejigger the way we think about water -- and growth -- in the West.
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