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Op-Ed

Phoenix's too hot future

Look no further than the aptly named Valley of the Sun to see the brutal new climate to come.

March 14, 2013|By William deBuys

A raw deal for Arizona? You bet, but not exactly the end of the line. Arizona has other "more senior" rights to the Colorado, and when the CAP water begins to run dry, you may be sure that its masters will pay whatever is necessary to lease those older rights and keep the 330-mile canal flowing.

Longer term, if habits don't change, the Colorado River poses issues that no water claims can resolve. Beset by climate change, overuse and drought, the river and its reservoirs, according to various researchers, may decline to the point that water fails to pass Hoover Dam. In that case, the CAP system would dry up, but so would the Colorado Aqueduct, which serves greater Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as the All-American Canal, on which the factory farms of California's Imperial and Coachella valleys depend.

These are giant problems that cities and the region as a whole must rally to face, a prospect that brings up another issue: Communities that survive stern challenges are those that learn how to pull together. Phoenix's winner-take-all politics, exemplified by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's storm-trooper tactics, give little cause for optimism. A few decades hence, after the climate screws have tightened with excruciating force, don't be surprised if the drivers steering U-Hauls out of town are spurred along as much by discord as by drought.

William deBuys is the author of "A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest." A longer version of this piece appears at tomdispatch.com.

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