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Western Water



I know the law job market is horrible, but I always felt that going into water law in the West was a pretty much limitless market, given the brutal battles between states and between the U.S. and Mexico, over scarce water supplies in a vastly overdeveloped region. With the rapid growth of Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Albuquerque, and of course southern California, on top of preexisting agricultural commitment and of course that little problem called climate change, the future of the Southwest is very much in doubt. The more we can know about water, the better we can manage it responsibly. Or just keep on keeping on but know why we are destroying everything. Whatever. Anyway, this is interesting:

Scientists have known for a long time that flow in rivers is sustained by contributions from both snowmelt runoff and groundwater. The groundwater is composed of rivulets of water hidden below ground —some thousands of years old — that are particularly important for sustaining a river’s flow after the spring snowmelt has subsided. Less clear, however, was exactly how much of the flow in rivers came from groundwater, a critical source of much of the West’s water supply. Now, a new study, released last month by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), helps quantify just how much: more than half the flow of rivers in the upper part of the Colorado River Basin is sustained by groundwater. That finding, say experts, highlights the need to better protect a resource threatened by overuse and climate change.

“Because we now have numbers on this connection, we have a better understanding of the importance of groundwater as a contributor to our surface water supply, and anything impacting the groundwater system will also impact flow in rivers.” says Matthew Miller, a USGS scientist and the lead author of the study.

Managing groundwater more sustainably has become a much greater emphasis of western water managers in recent years, with some level of success in not depleting it. But the law around these issues in byzantine with lots and lots of stakeholders all aggressively pushing their claims.

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