A Reader’s Digest cover line, “Are We Running Out of Water” caught the eye of Grumpy Editor, who was lured into reading the Joseph K. Vetter byliner.
The headline on the 12-page article (in a 208-page May issue): “Droughts and half-drained reservoirs raise an ominous question: Is America running out of water?” with a subhead, “Another dust bowl?”
Grumpy Editor focused on the second half of the story dealing with the Colorado River system and “running out of water” in the West.
The Colorado River, including Lake Mead and Lake Powell, it pointed out, is fed by melting snow from the Rocky Mountains and is “the main source of water for 30 million people in the Southwest.”
The story goes on to mention one study by scientists estimates “if current climate and water management trends continue, Lake Mead has a 50 percent chance of drying up by 2021.”
Sounds scary. Imagine brown, dead trees and plants from former green, lush landscaping in Las Vegas, including the vast grounds of world-famous casinos on The Strip, all dependent on water from Lake Mead, created with the construction of Hoover Dam, completed in 1935.
But one vital word missing from the Reader’s Digest article is: Mexico.
Under a 1944 treaty --- which few seem to recall or talk about these “dry” days --- Mexico is guaranteed 1.5 million acre-feet a year or five times more than Nevada’s 300,000-acre feet on releases from Lake Mead. Also dipping into the water source is California with 4.4 million acre-feet and Arizona with 2.8 million acre-feet.
(An acre-foot is the volume of water that would cover one acre to a depth of one foot.)
Back in 1944, strong opposition to the treaty with Mexico came in a 21-page typewritten statement from the Colorado River Board of California. Its feeling was summarized on the opening page: “Unwarranted generosity to Mexico, at the expense of American communities, is neither just to the latter, nor conducive to harmony among the peoples on both sides of the border.”
The Board, with foresight, also questioned denying “water to American communities, in cycles of dry years, such as have occurred and will recur, in order to supply Mexican lands.”