Monday, December 22, 2008

DRINKING WATER FOR ONE OUT 12 AMERICANS IN TROUBLE

Pro Publica - The Colorado River, the life vein of the Southwestern United States, is in trouble. The river's water is hoarded the moment it trickles out of the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado and begins its 1,450-mile journey to Mexico's border. It runs south through seven states and the Grand Canyon, delivering water to Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego. Along the way, it powers homes for 3 million people, nourishes 15 percent of the nation's crops and provides drinking water to one in 12 Americans.

Now a rush to develop domestic oil, gas and uranium deposits along the river and its tributaries threatens its future.

The region could contain more oil than Alaska's National Arctic Wildlife Refuge. It has the richest natural gas fields in the country. And nuclear energy, viewed as a key solution to the nation's dependence on foreign energy, could use the uranium deposits held there.

But getting those resources would suck up vast quantities of the river's water and could pollute what is left. That's why those most concerned are water managers in places like Los Angeles and San Diego. They have the most to lose.

The river is already so beleaguered by drought and climate change that one environmental study called it the nation's "most endangered" waterway. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography warn the river's reservoirs could dry up in 13 years.