Romancing the River: Quo Vadimus 2

George2023 Articles, Sibley's Rivers9 Comments

Hassayampa River Preserve, AZ Photo by John Menard

…the fabled Hassayampa… of whose waters, if any drink, they can no more see fact as naked fact, but all radiant with the color of romance. – Mary Austin, ‘Land of Little Rain’ That fabled Hassayampa is in the news these days, down in Arizona. The Hassayampa River does exist, by the way: an intermittent stream that flows off the south slopes of the Colorado Plateau, and down through a desert valley west of the sprawling phenomenon of Phoenix, where it joins the Gila River, which in turn joins the Colorado River down near Yuma and the Mexican border. A new development has been proposed for the lower Hassayampa Valley, catering to those trying to stay out ahead of the sprawl: the Howard Hughes Corporation wants to turn 37,000 acres of Sonoran desert land there, just west of the White Tank Mountains, into a new development, Teravalis, with 100,000 homes for maybe 300,000 people, and 55 million square feet of … Read More

Romancing the River: The Law of the River

George2022 Articles, Sibley's Rivers4 Comments

Hoover Dam Construction | LOTR

“Now we have to come to terms with the fact that there are limits. That’s not the American way to recognize limits.” – Jack Schmidt, Director Center for Colorado River Studies University of Utah For the past several posts, we’ve been exploring the Colorado River Compact, commemorating its centennial this year. Nearly everything I have read about the Colorado River Compact in this centennial year – and it’s getting to be voluminous – speaks of it as the ‘foundation’ of ‘The Law of the River,’ an accumulation of legal and political documents accompanying the development of the Colorado River since the 1922 Compact.  I have a problem with calling the Compact the ‘foundation’ of the Law of the River – as though before the Compact was adopted, the River was lawless. That is not true. The real foundation of the Law of the River is the appropriations doctrine that all seven states (or territories) had embraced in the 19th century … Read More

Where does our water come from? 
And what are we doing to it in the Anthropocene?

George2022 Articles, Sibley's RiversLeave a Comment

Gothic Mountain

For anyone seeing our planet for the first time from a satellite’s perspective, worries about water might be the last thing to cross their mind. Had we first seen the planet that way; we would probably have named it ‘Water’ rather than ‘Earth.’ Looking at its clouds and ice sheets as well as its expanses of water, we would also see from that perspective that we live on a planet at just the right distance from its star to let water exist in its solid, liquid and vapor states. A few million miles farther from the sun, toward Mars, and our water would all be frozen in its solid state. A few million miles closer to the sun and the water would all be a gaseous cloud mass suffocating the planet. In neither of those situations could life as we know it exist; all life on the planet depends on water in its liquid state – but all land-based life … Read More

The Colorado – First River of the Anthropocene

George2022 Articles, Sibley's Rivers1 Comment

I said in the first post here that I’ll be focusing on ‘learning to live with the Anthropocene’ – a work-in-progress for everyone who will even acknowledge the existence of the Anthropocene. To refresh your mind on it – the Anthropocene is a new epoch in the evolution of the planet in which the human species is a factor in shaping the planet’s further evolution. This is an ‘honor’ we did not consciously seek – because who would want that kind of responsibility? But we have backed into it, as it were, like it or not – unconsciously, to be sure, and sometimes irresponsibly – but it’s where we are.  The Anthropocene follows the Holocene Epoch, which would probably only have been a 20,000-30,000-year interval, plus or minus, of warmth and greenness between epochs of Pleistocene glaciation, had we humans not inadvertently intervened with the advent of the Anthropocene. If you are looking for possible good news in the onset … Read More