Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2008

Abstract

Water policy in the western states consistently has embraced a nineteenth century, supply-side mentality, requiring cities and other water providers to satisfy an ever-growing demand for water at virtually any cost. As a result, the western states rely upon thousands of engineered water transfers-even siphoning water from one side of mountain ranges to the other-in an un-sustainable attempt to support growth. This article challenges the conventional reliance upon transbasin diversions as a response to shortage. It argues that importing water from distant watersheds lulls growing communities into a false sense of security, subsidizes unsustainable growth, and exacts significant social, economic, and environmental costs. Although this article recognizes the infeasablility of reducing western reliance upon exisisting large-scale transfers, it offers an alternative paradigm for the eastern states, as many of them begin to face the limits of exisiting water supplies. This article argues that communities could achieve water independence by shifting to a demand-side model and by nourishing the living rivers essential to both human and natural ecosystems.

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