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'Cadillac Desert' withstands the test of time and technology
Date:12/13/2010

alysis, Sabo and his colleagues applied the best available tools to data on water, soil, salt, dams, fish and crop yields. "Our data and analyses confirm with numbers and maps what Reisner deftly described with words," Sabo said.

Some of the primary findings are:

  • Currently, the desert Southwest uses 76 percent of its total surface water to support its population. This will rise to 86 percent with a doubling of urban population (expected in 50 to 100 years). Sustainable balance for the region is achieved when 40 percent of total surface water is used.
  • Salt, which results from the application of large quantities of water to grow drought intolerant food crops on desert farmlands, has likely caused about $2.5 billion in reductions in crop revenues in the Western U.S.
  • The water footprints of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix are the top three in the U.S. The footprint of Los Angeles alone is larger the seven largest eastern U.S. cities (including New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.)

"California is arguably the most important farmland in North America," Sabo said. "But the water needed to support California agriculture (which is exported as food products to the rest of the country) is at odds with healthy populations of freshwater fish like salmon.

"Can we have salmon and tomatoes on the same table," he asks. "Something will have to give. We may have to embrace increases in the current rock bottom prices for water and high quality produce or policies that discourage rapid urban population growth and expansion unless we are willing to let go of the idea of healthy rivers, coastal waters and a viable salmon fishery in California."

Sabo and his team used advanced technologies to come to their conclusions. Geographical information systems, distributed hydrological models and innovative methods to quantify human water scarcity and water footprints were used by the team to dissect patterns of freshwater unsusta
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Contact: Skip Derra
skip.derra@asu.edu
480-965-4823
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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