American Southwest and northwestern Mexico turning into even more of a desert

Story here. Scientists believe this “mega-drought,” beginning in the late 1980s, is not a cyclical climate change but a permanent one. Yet more and more suburbs continue to be built in the Sunbelt.

What will happen when inhabitants of the region finally realize they are pushing up against an immovable barrier of water availablity?

What will the Southwest be like in 50 years?

Is there anything we can do about it? Any mad scientists working on a weather machine these days? Could we, well, dig a new river running from the Great Lakes to Tijuana? (And you thought the Chunnel was a big civil-engineering project . . .)

Or, how much can be done through desalination of sea water?

Point of information:

How do they dispose of the salt or brine produced by a desalination plant?

I had an idea the other night, why not flood Death Valley from the pacific? At it’s lowest point it’s 282 feet below sea level… say we dug a tunnel and canals through to the pacific, somewhere north of LA and flooded the whole valley with sea water, we could tap into the energy of the falling water filling the vally for hydroelectricity, then when it’s full and level there might be a tidal flow to tap. Surely a large relatively shallow inland sea would contribute to local rainfall via evaporation and lower area temperatures somewhat. Local property values would rise due to thousands of miles of newly created waterfront property. I know we’d be destroying a unique and harshly beautiful biosphere, yadda yadda… but would it be possible?

Mostly back into the sea from whence it came, or if inland into brine ponds for impoundment.

Generally, the brine just gets dumped back into the ocean. Disposal of the brine from desalination plants is a major problem, though.

Why, if you can just dump it back into the ocean?

Since the hoover Dam was built, the resovoir has been leaking fresh water into the undergound aquifer-I’ll be there is plent of water to be had from deep wells. As for desalinization: it can be done with apssive solar stills-the brine can be turned into sold salt in evaporation pans. hasn’t the SW been drying up since about AD 1300? That is when the Anasazi cliff dwellings were abandoned.

That was a temporary dry spell, as were those in the 1930s and the 1950s. This one appears to be permanent and caused by global warming. Read the article linked in the OP. Especially the last paragraph.

I assume because it increases salinity locally beyond what sealife in the dumping area is able to bear.

Maybe we could turn the Bonneville Salt Flats into the Bonneville Salt Dunes?

Living myself in the Southwest, its something I’ve pondered from time to time. Luckily, thus far at least, its not a major problem here in New Mexico. Arizona and California though…they are in deep shit.

I’m fairly sure the inhabitants DO realize that the mega-cities out here (like Pheonix) are not sustainable long term, without major effort. Which is why they go to such lengths to steal water from every source they can get their hands on. What will happen when they hit the wall? Gods know. My guess is that people just think that someone will always come up with a technological solution to save them…and thus far they are right. The price of water will of course keep going up…and I’m guessing that eventually the very price of water will make living in such places unattractive for many, thus reversing the trend. When and how this will happen though I’m not sure.

In a mere 50 years? Pretty much what you see today, but with more people. I’m guessing that there will be a few more million plus cities out here (Albuquerque for one is on the cusp of a million right now…and there are a few more that are close and will cross over in less than 5 years). I doubt that this trend will reverse in 50 years time.

Yeah…all you Easterners can move somewhere else for gods sake! :stuck_out_tongue: Other than that, you’ve already mentioned the best (using that term loosely) solution in desalination. Its a shame there is no way to get the massive quantities of water that fall in a state like Washington (who curse yet another rainy day) down to Arizona or California, but I seriously doubt anyone is going to build a pipeline massive enough to do so anytime soon (gods know what such a beast would cost…billions at least, maybe trillions).

I suppose the government could subsidize some of the Indian tribes out here to do contiuous rain dances…



Where would the lizards go?

Didn’t recent studies show that all of the lawns and swimming pools in cities like Phoenix are, in fact, increasing area rainfall?

Damned if I know…first I’ve heard of something like that. What I recall was that the massive amounts of blacktop and pavement in places like Pheonix were causing a radiant heat effect that essentially was driving the clouds away…making even the monsoon season (the only time we really get quantities of rain out here) less by forcing the storms on different tracks.


You know, here in Miami-Dade, we get rain like you wouldn’t believe almost every day in the summer and fall, and the county still has to ration lawn-watering the rest of the year.

Well, during the monsoon season it rains like a son-of-a-bitch here nearly every day too. Problem is that its mostly sunny the rest of the year…thus the water rationing. The only other water source we have is melt water from the mountains (thats here where I live) and whatever comes in from the Rio. In Arizona and parts of California they don’t even get that…and its a hell of a lot hotter in Arizona than it is here in New Mexico.


I didn’t know any place in the Western Hemisphere had a “monsoon season.”

Learned something new then. :stuck_out_tongue:


From the linked article:

This seems to be a bit of artistic license. I live right in the middle of where over a million of those acres burned last year and the prairie ain’t exactly blowing away or reverting to desert. The burned prairie looks just like the rest of the prairie, only greener.

While we are in a bit of a drought, the precipitation last year was actually right on par for our average (+/- 20~21"/yr). It was dry early in the year, the fires here were in March, but exceedingly wet the rest of the year. We’ve already received almost 7" of precipitation this year.

So the rest of the article about drought in the SW might be accurate, and the rest of the prairie in Texas that burned might be reverting to desert, but our little million burned acres is doing OK for now.

I think we’re talking about the same effect. Unfortunately, the article is written in such a way that it implies that rainfall near the city has increased 12-14% since urbanization … when, in fact, the researcher SEEMS to be saying (none too clearly) that the urban heat island effect has changed WHERE the rain fell, not necessarily how much total.

I think. No one mentions if there is any rainfall DECREASE anywhere (i.e., if you move your lawn sprinkler closer to your driveway, you’re going to see a dramatic increase in the amt. of water hitting your car … but there isn’t any more water falling now than there was before you acted; it just means there’s less on the lawn and more on the driveway now).