Hike #6 - Pre-hike Reading
Author: Robert Kuniz
Title: Drying of the West - The American West was won by water management. What happens when there's no water left to manage?
Date: February 2008 (not surprisingly still relevant)
|Sustainability Discipline: Water (Note - disciplines for hikes 1-5 respectively: all sustainability, climate, energy, transportation, land. Check them out here.)|
Background: I was fortunate to take two Environmental Science courses at Skyline College in Fall 2017 and Winter 2018, both excellent courses and highly recommended. The first was more biology focused (ENVS 100) and one more geology focused (GEOL 105). Both covered similar material but from different perspectives.
GEOL 105 was split into 3 sections - water, air, and energy. This was an impactful article about water cycles and what we can expect even without rising temperatures to the levels we now know are likely. Interesting view from Southern Nevada Water Authority's Pat Mulroy in this article. She's well known in this domain.
When provided with continuous nourishment, trees, like people, grow complacent.Tree-ring scientists use the word to describe trees like those on the floor of the Colorado River Valley, whose roots tap into thick reservoirs of moist soil. Complacent trees aren't much use for learning about climate history, because they pack on wide new rings of wood even in dry years. To find trees that feel the same climatic pulses as the river, trees whose rings widen and narrow from year to year with the river itself, scientists have to climb up the steep, rocky slopes above the valley and look for gnarled, ugly trees, the kind that loggers ignore. For some reason such "sensitive" trees seem to live longer than the complacent ones. "Maybe you can get too much of a good thing," says Dave Meko.
Meko, a scientist at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, has been studying the climate history of the western United States for decades. Tree-ring fieldwork is hardly expensive—you need a device called an increment borer to drill into the trees, you need plastic straws (available in a pinch from McDonald's) to store the pencil-thin cores you've extracted from bark to pith, and you need gas, food, and lodging. But during the relatively wet 1980s and early '90s, Meko found it difficult to raise even the modest funds needed for his work. "You don't generate interest to study drought unless you're in a drought," he says. "You really need a catastrophe to get people's attention," adds colleague Connie Woodhouse.
Then, in 2002, the third dry year in a row and the driest on record in many parts of the Southwest, the flow in the Colorado fell to a quarter of its long-term average. That got people's attention.
Navigate to the full article HERE (new window)
Author interview HERE
Do you like this post?