"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell" — Edward Abbey
I was reading an Arizona Republic story about the state seeking ways to "prop up" Lake Mead to "forestall painful and chaotic shortages for at least a few years." The number that sat me back was that Arizona draws 40 percent of its water from the Colorado River.
For an old-timer like me this is an astounding statistic. In 1960, Arizona took very little water from the river. Greater Phoenix, which constituted 50 percent of the state's population, received all its water from the dams and reservoirs on the Salt and Verde rivers. The rest of the state was heavily dependent on ground water, the pumping of which was already a longstanding problem, with a few other renewable river sources. But the entire state held 1.3 million people — less than the population of today's city of Phoenix.
What nobody wants to discuss is when does Arizona hit population overshoot? With more than 6.8 million people, a population that places it in the ranks of such states as Massachusetts and Washington, one could argue it already has. This is particularly true considering the combination of an over-subscribed Colorado and the growing stress of climate change.
It's virtually a forbidden topic. Even after the housing collapse, Arizona's economy remains a one-trick pony dependent on adding more people, building more sprawl, creating a Sun Corridor from Benson to Flagstaff. The local-yokel boosters mounted up to attack Andrew Ross' superbly researched and well argued book, Bird on Fire: Lessons From the World's Least Sustainable City, precisely because he crossed the line. He asked the existential questions about the vast Ponzi scheme. I did the same as a Republic columnist, despite being warned from the most powerful levels: Don't write about water. I did and I was out.