New NPG Paper Asks for Leaders to Focus on Solutions to the Southwest’s Water Crisis

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Population Growth Linked to Water Crisis in the American Southwest

The southwest region of the United States is attracting new residents daily. Known for its sunshine, open spaces, and new communities, the area continues to be in demand for those looking to relocate. Meanwhile, some lifelong residents, such as writer and environmentalist Kathleene Parker, believe that the current water crisis needs to be addressed immediately before it’s too late. Negative Population Growth, Inc. (NPG) has published a new forum paper written by Parker, to tackle this important topic. Titled Modern Megadrought: Population, Denial, and Crisis in the American Southwest, this work takes a deeper look at the issue from both a historical and present-day perspective.

Parker sets the stage for her readers by discussing the Southwest’s Colorado River system (that supplies water to 45 million people), the region’s huge agriculture industry, and population growth. She then delivers her call to action: “We need leaders, urgently who understand, absolutely, that drought equals the amount of water divided by the number of people (and other “interests,” like wildlife) who need water, and that the higher the population, the greater the problem.”

Splitting the history of the region into two areas of focus, weather and population migration, Parker summarizes the past. Leading with more recent history, she shares: “The worst 20-plus-year drought in 800 years began with the ‘winter without snow.’ No snow fell in most of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Wyoming high country during the winter of 2000-2001.” From there, Parker looks back over 1,000 years, bullet-pointing relevant weather events along the way. Zeroing in on population migration, Parker also discusses the native civilizations, such as the Anasazi, Mogollon, and Hohokam people, who lived on and worked the lands of the southwest region for thousands of years before The Great Abandonment. In lining up the region's history, Parker seamlessly illustrates the connection between drought and population migration.

Next, Parker centers her attention on the current water crisis, noting: “The Colorado River flows southwest from the Wyoming and Colorado high country – cutting the great, gaping Grand and other canyons of Colorado, Arizona, and Utah – 1,450 miles to the Gulf of California. It is one of the most dammed – some say ‘damned’ – and diverted rivers in the world, today functioning more as a giant plumbing system than as a river.” She then adds context to the issue, sharing: “For decades, massive diversion projects have taken Colorado River water into Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas – towns that morphed into megacities – while trans mountain diversions transported its water under or through the Rocky Mountains into the Atlantic watershed and Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder, Greeley, Colorado Springs, Pueblo (and plains-area farmlands) and into Santa Fe and Albuquerque.” In short, the supply is not adequate to satisfy the demand.

Parker summarizes her thoughts on local and federal leadership, saying: “The Southwest’s and the federal government’s response to drought has been too little, too late, seemingly interwoven with outright denial. Actions seem focused mostly on maintaining a long-gone status quo or rushing to react to the next long-expected, but unprepared for, crisis. There seems no comprehension of the broad draconian actions required or that the Southwest cannot exist in the future as it has in the past.” Looking to emphasize sound reasoning, Parker rewinds the clock to the Council on Sustainable Development during the Clinton administration, spotlighting their advice that “immigration should not fuel growth.”

In closing, Parker brings readers to the present day, where all signs point to a worsening water crisis. “The U.S. Census Bureau’s ‘population clock’ shows a net gain of one person every 41 seconds,” she notes, adding, “if Title 42 is overturned, Homeland Security estimates border crossings at 18,000 a day, or 6 million a year, incidentally, into the highest per capita carbon nation on Earth!” Simply put, sustainable water conditions are impossible as the Southwest continues to increase in population.

Founded in 1972, NPG is a national nonprofit membership organization dedicated to educating the American public and political leaders regarding the damaging effects of population growth. We believe that our nation is already vastly overpopulated in terms of the long-range carrying capacity of its resources and environment. NPG advocates the adoption of its Proposed National Population Policy, with the goal of eventually stabilizing U.S. population at a sustainable level – far lower than today’s. We do not simply identify the problems – we propose solutions. For more information, visit our website at, follow us on Facebook @NegativePopulationGrowth or follow us on Twitter @npg_org.

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Craig Lewis
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