Vocapedia > Earth > Water > Ice, seas, oceans,
lakes > Resources
Once the city's main water source,
the Los Angeles River is now a concrete
fed by storm drains.
City residents rely on water
piped in from
hundreds of miles away.
© Edward Burtynsky, National Geographic
Boston Globe > Big Picture > World Water Day
March 22, 2010
Alarm over dramatic weakening of Gulf Stream
Ian Sample, science correspondent
The Guardian p. 3 Thursday December 1, 2005
Earth > population levels UK
Earth's resources >
water UK / USA
USA > Calirfornia >
farmland > water USA
USA > California >
Delta-Mendota Canal in San Joaquin County
USA > California >
Luis reservoir USA
farmers > drought > groundwater >
store water in underground aquifers
during wetter years /
water from underground aquifers USA
USA > Colorado > water USA
USA > gallon
global water shortages UK
global water crisis UK
water crisis USA
USA > America's water crisis
The water footprint of the world – map
by the agricultural sector
of annual global
according to a study
that quantifies and maps
humanity's water footprint
– a measure
of the total volume of freshwater
used to produce goods and services
World water day USA March 22d, 2010
running water UK / USA
tainted tap water
drop of water
water distribution > California
water shortage UK
water restrictions UK
Young African American boy
sitting on the Memphis riverbank
watching the boats on the Mississippi river.
Location: Memphis, TN, US
Date taken: March 1945
- broken link
> The Colorado River
is like a giant bank account
for seven different states.
Now it's running short.
the river has fed growing cities
from Denver to Los Angeles.
A lot of the produce
in supermarkets across the country
was grown with Colorado River water.
But with climate change,
and severe drought,
the river is reaching a crisis point,
and communities at each end of it
are reacting very differently.
40-million-people-rely-on-the-colorado-river-its-drying-up-fast - August 27,
America’s most legendary white-water river
Human impact on world's rivers UK
Arctic seas UK
Pacific ocean 2008
The world's melting glaciers
The New York Times > The Big Melt:
A Series USA
Effects of warming
on the environment
and on the four million people
who live in the Arctic,
and scientists' assessments
of the inevitability of Arctic melting
- broken link
change hits Alaska's national parks
- broken link
Mt. Kilimanjaro ice cap
Arctic ice > Northwest Passage
loss of Arctic ice
UK / USA
Arctic melt December
avoid the melting of the polar ice caps
Severed from the edge of Antarctica,
this iceberg might float for years
melts and releases its store of fresh water into the sea.
The water molecules will eventually
and recycle back to Earth as precipitation.
Camille Seaman, © National Geographic
Boston Globe > Big Picture
World Water Day
March 22, 2010
the life-support systems of the oceans
global warming > coral reefs
Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs around the world
coral reefs USA
Australia > The Great Barrier Reef
Corpus of news articles
Earth > Resources > Water
Water Piped to Denver
Could Ease Stress on River
December 9, 2012
The New York Times
By FELICITY BARRINGER
The federal government has come up with dozens of ways to
enhance the diminishing flow of the Colorado River, which has long struggled to
keep seven states and roughly 25 million people hydrated.
Among the proposals in a report by the Bureau of Reclamation, parts of which
leaked out in advance of its expected release this week, are traditional
solutions to water shortages, like decreasing demand through conservation and
increasing supply through reuse or desalination projects.
But also in the mix, and expected to remain in the final draft of the report, is
a more extreme and contentious approach. It calls for building a pipeline from
the Missouri River to Denver, nearly 600 miles to the west. Water would be doled
out as needed along the route in Kansas, with the rest ultimately stored in
reservoirs in the Denver area.
Experts say the plan is reminiscent of those proposed in the middle of the last
century, when grand and exorbitant federal water projects were commonplace — and
not, with the benefit of hindsight, always advisable.
The fact that the Missouri River pipeline idea made the final draft, water
experts say, shows how serious the problem has become for the states of the
Colorado River basin. “I pooh-poohed this kind of stuff back in the 1960s,” said
Chuck Howe, a water policy expert and emeritus professor of economics at the
University of Colorado, Boulder. “But it’s no longer totally unrealistic.
Currently, one can say ‘It’s worth a careful look.’ ”
The pipeline would provide the Colorado River basin with 600,000 acre-feet of
water annually, which could serve roughly a million single-family homes. But the
loss of so much water from the Missouri and Mississippi River systems, which
require flows high enough to sustain large vessel navigation, would most likely
face strong political opposition.
“If this gets any traction at all, people in the flyover states of the Missouri
River basin probably will scream,” said Burke W. Griggs, the counsel for the
Kansas Agriculture Department’s division of water resources. But, he added, the
proposal “shows you the degree to which water-short entities in the Colorado
River basin are willing to go to get water” from elsewhere, rather than fight
each other over dwindling supplies, as they have intermittently for about a
The new report addresses the adequacy of water supplies over the next 50 years
in the Colorado basin, which includes the central and southern Rocky Mountains,
the deserts of the Southwest and Southern California. The study, the officials
said, will serve as a road map for future federal action in collaboration with
the Colorado River basin states.
The Denver Post described the pipeline option in an article last week.
As far as future water supplies go, the outlook is not good. Most Colorado River
water is currently used for agriculture, but that is beginning to shift as the
cities of the Southwest continue to grow.
The effects of climate change could result in less precipitation over the
Rockies, further stressing the supply.
Existing agreements among the states that depend on the river oblige those in
the upper basin (including Colorado, Utah and Wyoming) to provide a specified
amount of flow downstream. The fear, Professor Howe said, is that there will not
be enough Colorado water for all, and that downstream states like Arizona and
California will nonetheless call for their usual deliveries from the upstream
states, renewing old water wars.
To avert that, new sources of supply or a sharp reduction in demand would be
Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation, said that during the
course of the study, the analysis done on climate change and historical data led
the agency “to an acknowledged gap” between future demand and future supply as
early as the middle of this century.
That is when they put out a call for broader thinking to solve the water
problem. “When we did have that wake-up call, we threw open the doors and said,
‘Bring it on,’ ” she said. “Nothing is too silly.”
Jason Bane of Western Resource Advocates, a conservation organization based in
Boulder, Colo., described the Missouri pipeline option as “fundamentally
20th-century water-policy thinking that doesn’t work in the 21st century.” He
added, “We clearly need to conserve and be more efficient with the water we
It is unclear how much such a pipeline project would cost, though estimates run
into the billions of dollars. That does not include the cost of the new electric
power that would be needed (along with the construction of new generating
capacity) to pump the water uphill from Leavenworth, Kan., to the front range
reservoirs serving Denver, about a mile above sea level, according to Sharlene
Leurig, an expert on water-project financing at Ceres, a nonprofit group based
in Boston that works with investors to promote sustainability.
If the Denver area had this new source of water to draw on, it could reduce the
supplies that come from the Colorado River basin on the other side of the
But Mr. Griggs and some federal officials said that the approval of such a huge
water project remained highly unlikely.
Ms. Leurig noted that local taxpayers and utility customers would be shouldering
most of the expense of such a venture through their tax and water bills, which
would make conservation a more palatable alternative.
Water Piped to Denver Could Ease Stress on
in California Water War
The New York Times
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
and FELICITY BARRINGER
SAN DIEGO —
There are accusations of conspiracies, illegal secret meetings and
double-dealing. Embarrassing documents and e-mails have been posted on an
official Web site emblazoned with the words “Fact vs. Fiction.” Animosities have
grown so deep that the players have resorted to exchanging lengthy, caustic
letters, packed with charges of lying and distortion.
And it is all about water.
Water is a perennial source of conflict and anxiety throughout the arid West,
but it has a particular resonance here in the deserts of Southern California.
This is a place where major thoroughfares are named after water engineers
(Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles) and literary essays (“Holy Water” by Joan
Didion, for instance) and films (“Chinatown”) have been devoted to its power and
Yet in the nearly 80 years since the Arizona National Guard was called out to
defend state waters against dam-building Californians, there has been little to
rival the feud now under way between San Diego’s water agency and the consortium
of municipalities that provides water to 19 million customers in Southern
California. This contentious and convoluted battle seems more akin to a tough
political campaign than a fight between bureaucrats, albeit one with costly
At issue is San Diego’s longstanding contention that it has been bullied by a
gang of its neighbors in the consortium, able by virtue of their number to force
the county to pay exorbitant fees for water. The consortium two weeks ago
imposed two back-to-back 5 percent annual water rate increases on San Diego —
scaled down, after strong protests, from what were originally set to be
back-to-back increases of 7.5 percent a year.
The battle is being fought in the courts — a judge in San Francisco is
struggling to untangle a welter of conflicting claims from the two sides — but
also on the Internet. San Diego officials have created a sleek Web site to carry
their argument to the public, posting 500 pages of documents they obtained
through public records requests to discredit the other side.
And they might have struck oil, as it were, unearthing documents and e-mails
replete with references to the “anti-San Diego coalition” and “a Secret
Society,” and no matter that the purported conspirators contend that they were
just being jocular.
“There is a lot of frustration,” said Jerry Sanders, the mayor of San Diego, who
has watched from the sidelines as the independent San Diego Water Authority
waged its wars. “It’s been building over the years.”
Asked about the tactics, Mr. Sanders demurred. “Whether they are effective or
not, I’ll leave that to other people to judge.”
If nothing else, the fight is an entertaining diversion from the kind of bland
bureaucratic infighting that usually characterizes these kinds of disputes.
Dennis A. Cushman, the assistant general manager of the San Diego authority,
said it posted the documents — and asked a judge to force the disclosure of a
ream of other private e-mails and documents — so beleaguered water consumers
“could see how the business of water in California is actually done.”
“We had suspicions about what was going on,” Mr. Cushman said. “We were shocked
by the depth and scope and the level of sophistication of what was going on.”
“It’s not done in public,” he said. “It’s done out of public view. The meetings
aren’t open. They are designed to expressly exclude the agency they are
Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the regional water consortium,
described the charges as “nonsense,” saying that the meetings that Mr. Cushman
had deemed illegal did not fall under the state’s open meetings laws. He
described the campaign against his organization — the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California, also known by the acronym M.W.D. — as unlike
anything he had seen.
“It sounds like a political campaign, and hiring political consultants to run it
for them strikes me as a new level of activity I haven’t seen before in public
service,” he said.
“It just seems to me to have a different tenor and tone than before,” he said.
“The idea of bandying about secret-society issues, talking about ‘the truth
about M.W.D.’ strikes me as unprofessional and does a disservice to the public.”
Kevin P. Hunt, the general manager of the water district of Orange County, said
he was taken aback at the suggestion that some kind of plot was afoot. “It would
be funny if it hadn’t created such a furor,” he said. “It was a bunch of guys
and gals getting together to do their work. It’s all in the spin you put on it —
calling it a ‘secret society’ and making it sound like a cabal. I didn’t even
know what a cabal was.”
The case ultimately will be determined in a state court in San Francisco. At
issue is how much the district should be charging San Diego to use the
district’s pipes to transport water the county bought elsewhere. (San Diego
officials have made a concerted effort to expand the sources of their water over
the years — including a long-contested, substantial transfer of Colorado River
water from inland farmers — so they are not as reliant on the district as they
San Diego has four seats on the district’s 37-member board, and there is little
incentive for other communities to entertain San Diego’s argument: When San
Diego pays less, everyone else pays more.
Mr. Cushman said that the district had come to view San Diego as “its golden
Still, even supporters of San Diego’s actions suggest that all accusations may
ultimately be little more than a sideshow.
“It just doesn’t feel right,” said Lani Lutar, the president of the San Diego
County Taxpayers Association. “They are already pursuing the lawsuit. Those are
ratepayer dollars being spent and all of the advertising. Is that necessary? The
lawsuit is going to resolve the matter. The P.R. stunt has taken it too far.”
San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the country, and this part of California
gets 10 inches of rain a year, on average. And this city is at the end of two
long water transport systems.
“We’ve always had end-of-pipeline paranoia,” said Lester Snow, the executive
director of the California Water Foundation and a former head of both the San
Diego and state water agencies. “It is often just physical — the pipeline
crosses earthquake faults and anything that happens bad anywhere can affect us.”
The long history has left San Diego with what seems to be a permanent sense of
grievance. But Mr. Snow said that this represented a new level of animosity.
“The current dispute has gone way beyond a rate-increase dispute,” he said.
Fees and Anger Rise in California Water War, NYT, 23.4.2012,
the Colorado Runs Dry
The New York Times
By JONATHAN WATERMAN
MOST visitors to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon probably don’t realize that
the mighty Colorado River, America’s most legendary white-water river, rarely
reaches the sea.
Until 1998 the Colorado regularly flowed south along the Arizona-California
border into a Mexican delta, irrigating farmlands and enriching a wealth of
wildlife and flora before emptying into the Gulf of California.
But decades of population growth, climate change and damming in the American
Southwest have now desiccated the river in its lowest reaches, turning a
once-lush Mexican delta into a desert. The river’s demise began with the 1922
Colorado River Compact, a deal by seven western states to divide up its water.
Eventually, Mexico was allotted just 10 percent of the flow.
Officials from Mexico and the United States are now talking about ways to
increase the flow into the delta. With luck, someday it may reach the sea again.
It is paradoxical that the Colorado stopped running consistently through the
delta at the end of the 20th century, which — according to tree-ring records —
was one of the basin’s wettest centuries in 1,200 years. Now dozens of animal
species are endangered; the culture of the native Cocopah (the People of the
River) has been devastated; the fishing industry, once sustained by shrimp and
other creatures that depend on a mixture of seawater and freshwater, has
withered. In place of delta tourism, the economy of the upper Gulf of California
hinges on drug smuggling operations that run opposite to the dying river.
In 2008 I tried to float the length of the 1,450-mile river to the sea but had
to walk the last week of the trip. Pools stagnated in the cracked riverbed. Like
the 30 million other Americans who depend on the river, I worry about drinking
water — but I also worry about the sorry inheritance we are leaving future
Demand for water isn’t the only problem. Climate change also threatens to reduce
runoff by 10 to 30 percent by 2050, depending on how much the planet warms,
according to a 2009 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Although the river delta can’t yet be pronounced dead, its pulse is feeble and
its once-vital estuaries and riverside forests are shrinking.
But a delicate beauty hangs on. Coyotes still bawl across the briny tang where a
mirage-laden sky appears to pull the distant Sierra el Mayor down to sea level.
The organic matter of this delta once sprawled 3,000 square miles to join Mexico
and the United States in a miraculous mixture of fertility and desert; these
sands have been washed out of the Rockies, carved from the Grand Canyon and
tumbled through more than three million acres of river-dependent farms.
If the final reaches of this six-million-year-old delta were in the United
States, they would have been declared a national park, with a protected
free-flowing river. But because the river terminates in a foreign country,
beyond the reach of the Endangered Species Act and most tourists’ cameras, it is
suffering a slow death.
Yet even in its last gasp of fecundity, the delta is larger than the human
imagination. Spring tides sweep, like heartbeats, from the upper Gulf of
California and the Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve two dozen miles up the
salt-crusted and rock-hard riverbed. From Arizona a canal runs farm wastewater
about 50 miles south into the Mexican delta, creating an accidental, but now
critical, bird sanctuary. Groundwater infuses verdant marshlands; newly planted
trees line restored riverbanks; and an earthquake last spring destroyed farm
irrigation canals, allowing the river to flow seaward again, but all too
The problems have been neglected amid attention on illegal immigration, the drug
war and the debated border fence. But by the time this winter’s fogs burn off
the delta, American and Mexican members of the International Boundary and Water
Commission aim to complete negotiations on conserving water, responding to
climate change and dedicating more water to the delta and its riverside forests
instead of only to farms and distant cities.
These talks have gone on for years, but before Mexico’s election this summer,
there is a rare ecological opportunity, if only political forces seize it. I
hope the commissioners can transcend their differences and recall the wisdom of
ancient empires, when civilizations flourished only as long as the Nile and the
Euphrates and the Yangtze continued to flow. By strengthening the treaty between
the United States and Mexico that governs the Colorado River, we have the
opportunity to revive the river and show the world, as it is suggested in
Ecclesiastes, that all rivers shall run to the sea.
Waterman is the author of “Running Dry:
A Journey From Source to Sea Down the Colorado River.”
Where the Colorado Runs Dry, NYT, 14.2.2012,
Twilight of the Glaciers
July 29, 2011
The New York Times
By STEPHEN P. NASH
AN hour or so up ahead, at the higher elevations along the
trail that leads over Siyeh Pass, huckleberries were ripening. Even a dawdling
day hiker like me knows that huckleberries can quickly mean grizzlies in Glacier
National Park. I indulged a nervous tic and patted around for the loud red
aerosol can on my belt, whose label reads Counter Assault. It’s effective as a
bear repellent, but even more reliable at making an urbanite feel faintly
I was in northwest Montana for the hikes and the huckleberries, but most of all
to experience the namesake glaciers, which, I had recently learned, might be
around for only another decade or so. Given that a century and a half ago there
were 150 and now there are 25, the trip makes me an enlistee in the practice
known by a somewhat prickly term: last-chance tourism.
For now, though, there are still glaciers to be seen. The park’s skein of
well-maintained trails traverses every section of its million-plus acres and can
accommodate any level of ability, from backpackers to the sheets-and-coverlets
crowd. Even visitors who prefer to commune with nature through a car window can
be awed by the views of the Jackson and Blackfoot Glaciers from Going-to-the-Sun
Road, the often car-choked highway that more or less bisects the park west to
And for those who want to get closer, some serious legwork over steep terrain
can put you right next to both the Grinnell and Sperry Glaciers, respectively a
day and an overnight’s hike away. There are other glaciers to be glimpsed in the
distance during a hike, but they can’t be reached by trails. These are
excursions that require ice ax, ropes or crampons: the well-sequestered Pumpelly
Glacier, for example, at 8,420 feet, and its close neighbor, the Pumpkin
Other glaciers are nearer a trail, but still display their remote and frigid
glory at some distance, and in a way the craggy surroundings make them even more
vivid. I chose the Siyeh Pass Trail because it affords a prolonged, spectacular
view of the Sexton Glacier from below.
Alpine glaciers like Sexton don’t look like peaks or cubes. A couple of miles
into the hike, as the trail opened into a valley, it came into view: a massive,
ragged smear of snow-laden ice, perched just under the sawtooth granite skyline.
My audio track, meanwhile, was the cascading water of Baring Creek, which runs
parallel to much of the trail. Descending from the glacier, it charges over a
series of red-rock ledges and then makes its way down into the azure St. Mary
Lake far below.
As the trail continued, the bottom edge of Sexton became visible — a violent
crumble, broken loose by gravity and temperature. Glaciers are forceful,
slow-flowing rivers of ice. With binoculars, I could see Sexton’s thickness and
true magnitude. The perspective also offers, if you’re up for it, a rather
stunning view into the future. As I pushed ahead, a graying volunteer ranger
approached me at a nimble gait. No bears sighted, he reported. (O.K.!) He was a
veteran of decades here, it turned out. We craned our necks up at the
still-formidable Sexton, and he said that it had once looked far larger to him.
I read later that it has, in fact, lost at least 30 percent of its surface area
since the mid-’60s.
There are several measures of what qualifies as a glacier. One generally
accepted rule of thumb is that they are a minimum of 25 acres in size. The most
recent report has Sexton at 68.
I moved on, ascending the switchbacks that pull the Siyeh trail up toward the
8,000-foot pass. I was well above tree line by now, and only a few peaks away
from the Canadian border. Not far off, out on the moraines, a quartet of
mountain goats appeared, munching and then settling.
A good idea. I was tired, too. According to Stephen Ambrose’s “Undaunted
Courage,” which follows the cross-country trek of Meriwether Lewis and William
Clark, Lewis was able to bushwhack 30 miles in a day. I was going to do 11, and
without the whacking. (The Lewis and Clark expedition came within sight of these
mountains in 1806.)
As I rested I heard women’s voices come from up the trail, sounding like an
exuberant traveling book group. They seemed delighted to find a sprawled,
worn-out guy to greet in passing. “How do you like it? This is our backyard!”
the leader announced, adding that they were from Kalispell, Mont., just
southwest of the park. I responded in superlatives, and asked whether folks here
talk much about what’s happening with the glaciers.
There was a pause and the temperature seemed to decline a degree or two. “God
will take care of everything we need,” one said.
“I don’t think man has anything to do with that,” her friend put in.
(A bartender at one of the lodges,
not-authorized-to-speak-publicly-on-the-matter, confided that not all locals
share these views.)
After a bit, they warmed enough to point out some huckleberry bushes nearby.
(This is a popular shrub around here, and not just for bears; after a few days
in the area, I can attest to the virtues of locally marketed huckleberry beer,
jam, pie, syrup, Riesling, lip balm, French toast, soda, cobbler, lemonade, ice
cream, daiquiris, tea and milkshakes.)
Retracing my steps back down to the trailhead, I was alone again — not a wise
practice, according to park brochures. Lewis recounted that one grizzly, already
shot four times through the lungs, charged and dispersed a six-man hunting party
while its stalwarts were still firing. Still, over the past hundred years, and
despite tens of millions of visitors, only 10 fatal grizzly attacks have been
recorded here. They do, however, take up a fair portion of mind space.
The Siyeh Pass Trail can either be an extended loop or a somewhat shorter out
and back of about 11 miles — the option I chose. As I headed back down into the
valley it wasn’t much of a stretch to think of the looming Sexton as alive. The
pressure of the glaciers’ weight causes the ice to flow forward over the
landscape; colder temperatures allow for a buildup of ice, which speeds up the
flow. Heat — a warmer day, season or era — is the competing force, and the
glaciers ebb. That movement is a defining feature, part of what makes glaciers
distinct from your more prosaic all-year patches of snow.
The day before, I had spoken with Daniel Fagre, who coordinates climate change
and glacial geology studies here for the United States Geological Survey. He is
a 20-year veteran of research at the park. The retreat of the glaciers began
around 1850, he said, as part of a slow, natural climatic variation, but the
disappearing act has accelerated during the last hundred years. Until recently,
his research projected that, as global warming hit its stride, the park’s
glaciers would all be gone by the year 2030. Now he thinks it may be as soon as
Outsize snows this past winter, which kept many park roads and trails closed
well into July, could briefly forestall the meltdown, but the longer warming
trend is inexorable, he said.
No reprieve? “No, I think we are continuing on that path,” he said.
The science is preliminary, but it’s clear that this loss will be more than
aesthetic for the park’s ecosystem, he said. Those glacial reservoirs provide a
steady supply of cool meltwater through hot summers and dry spells, helping to
sustain a constellation of plants and animals, some rare — big-horned sheep, elk
and mountain goats among them.
Passing again under the glacier as daylight faded, the trail neared its end.
Those prospective losses weighed heavily — nostalgia, of a sort, laced with
MORE pleasantly, the park celebrates nostalgia of a different sort — from the
Art Deco typography on the official signage to the fleet of low-slung, roll-top
tour buses known as “red jammers,” which date from the ’30s. These ply the roads
between robber-baron-era hotels, offering full- and half-day tours to various
sections of the park ($30 and up).
There’s a wealth of accommodations along the eastern and western boundaries of
the park, especially in the towns of East Glacier Park and West Glacier. Despite
their names, these towns, with populations of only a few hundred each, are more
like distant cousins than identical twins. West Glacier, half an hour from the
Kalispell airport, is generally newer, and sprawls.
East Glacier Park, two and a half hours north of the Great Falls, Mont.,
airport, is a charming, tumbleweedy throwback with a string of weathered
eateries and motor-court lodgings that are only slightly post-World War II.
There’s also the Backpacker’s Inn, a combination hostel and super-cheap motel
with a mostly youthful clientele who like the clean, spare single rooms for $30
a night. I’ve stayed in each of these places a time or two, but this night —
after a fiery, pepper-laden dinner of enchiladas pasillas at Serrano’s Mexican
restaurant among a crowd of other glacier-gawkers and local ranchers — I opted
for the Mountain Pine Motel. It has endured, with appearance and ambience
intact, since 1947. The owners are descendants of the pioneer Sherburne family
that helped settle the park area in the 1890s.
Nearby is the century-old Glacier Park Lodge, a grandly creaky log cabin writ
very large. There are three such concessioner-run legacy hotels at the park,
erected by the Great Northern Railroad to lure tourism. My favorite is the Many
Glacier Hotel, a darkly comical but generally comfortable old wooden monstrosity
with a Swiss theme (the bellhops wear lederhosen). Its broad verandas face a
transfixing view of a horizon of pinnacles that surround Swiftcurrent Lake — one
of 131 named lakes in the park (631 others are as yet unnamed; feel free to
follow my example and name a few after your friends).
When my wonderful clawfoot tub leaked onto the occupants of the room below, the
two repair-crew guys who showed up grinned and shrugged after some futile work:
that’s kind of the way this place is, they said. The only other available room
was infested with bats, and smelled like it, I was told. It was a great stay,
just the same. Half of the hotel is being renovated all this season and is
closed, along with one of the dining rooms.
The Many Glacier Hotel is also the start of one of the park’s most popular
hikes, to Grinnell Glacier. The 8- or 10-mile hike is strenuous, though less so
than the Siyeh Pass Trail, and the payoff is that you can get within a stone’s
toss of the glacier itself, the surface area of which is more than twice
I embarked with a ranger-guided group on Chief Two Guns — a trim 45-footer,
built locally and hauled up here somehow 50 years ago — for a quick trip over
Swiftcurrent Lake. Then a short walk to another boat, the even older Morning
Eagle, across Lake Josephine to the trailhead. The boats moved past a shifting
panorama of jagged rock faces, slender waterfalls, and high above, the
destination glacier. The trail is often crowded, but that scarcely registers in
these surroundings. Hikers stop to catch a breath and find it taken again by the
view out over the string of lakes, far below, fed by Grinnell’s meltwater.
Connected by cascades, each lake is a deeper blue than the one above.
After three hours of steady ascent and a final quarter-mile of hard climbing,
the trail ends at the foot of the glacier and an iceberg-studded, expanding
lake. The lake does not appear on old maps, according to the ranger. It is a
byproduct of the fact that Grinnell’s surface is 40 percent smaller than a
Above the lake, the glacier is a wide, tilted skirt of ice whose hem you can
almost touch, brilliant under the sun even when it’s dirty with wind-blown grit
by the end of the season. It seems immense, too big to disappear, and nearly
crowds everything else from consciousness. The ranger said that until a few
seasons back you could walk out onto the lower edge of it, which is too thin now
to bear human weight safely.
Seaweed-like stromatolite fossils embossed in the cracked rocks along the trail
supply a Precambrian perspective of perhaps a couple of billion years. But it is
the view out over this lake of meltwater that grabs the imagination far more
A question hangs up there with the remnant glacier, which may soon be converted
to a few patches of ice: what comes next?
Hikes and Huckleberries
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
You can reach Glacier by flying into Kalispell, Mont., and driving half an hour
to the west side of the park, or flying into Great Falls and driving two and a
half hours to reach the eastern entry point. You can also take Amtrak’s Empire
Builder from Chicago, Seattle or Tacoma, and disembark at either East Glacier
Park, Essex or West Glacier. The Going-to-the-Sun Road has been under repair
since last year, which means that traffic is often rerouted to a single lane.
This results in stops that can add 30 or 40 minutes to the usual one- or
The Logan Pass parking lot and visitor center is usually posted “Full” by
midmorning all summer, according to park staff members. A shuttle bus system
along the Going-to-the-Sun Road ferries hikers and sightseers to and from Logan
Pass and a series of trailheads.
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT
At East Glacier Park:
Both the Glacier Park Lodge and, to the north, Many Glacier Hotel (for both
406-892-2525; glacierparkinc.com/reservations.php; both from $140 a night for
two in high season) are concessioner “legacy” railroad hotels — gracious dowager
empresses that can’t help but show their age.
The Backpacker’s Inn, right behind Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant (29 Dawson
Avenue; 406-226-9392; serranosmexican.com) and under the same ownership, is $30
a night for a single room, $12 a night for the gender-segregated hostel. Clean,
quiet, spartan. Serrano’s has benches on the porch for its surplus of patrons —
a mix of locals, tourists and backpackers who line up for the chimichangas and
carne Tampico. The super-smoky habanero sauce is sold at the cash register.
At West Glacier:
The Silver Wolf Log Chalets (406-387-4448; silverwolfchalets.com; from $176) are
cabins with interior décor that is almost exclusively logs, twigs and sticks,
quiet and nicely appointed, 10 minutes from the park.
The Belton Chalet (406-888-5000; beltonchalet.com; from $155) is a lovely old
hotel with predictable advantages and limitations. Keep in mind that a railroad
line is close at hand. The restaurant is one of the best at this edge of the
In the park:
There are 13 national park campgrounds, many with views of lakes and peaks,
including those at Apgar Lake, Medicine Lake or Swiftcurrent Lake. Cook a
porterhouse or two over the iron grill, bring in a bottle of malbec and observe
all bear precautions.
A NOTE ABOUT WATER
East Glacier Park, Mont., is a small tourist town whose water system is not
reliably safe, according to state and federal authorities. Motels connected to
that system are required to post a “boil order” warning, but some don’t, which
could mean trouble if you’re unaware and brush your teeth or drink water from
the tap in your room. (Boiling kills giardia, E. coli, cryptosporidium and other
potentially illness-producing microorganisms not reliably filtered out by the
current water operation, said Shelley Nolan of the Montana Department of
A few places, including the big Glacier Park Lodge, have their own wells or
water filtration, so the water is safe to use without boiling. Restaurants
should use bottled water. So ask.
A new water treatment plant is set to begin operation soon, according to the
federal Environmental Protection Agency, but as of this writing, it’s not
certain that will occur in 2011.
STEPHEN P. NASH
is the author of “Millipedes and Moon Tigers:
Science and Policy in the Age of Extinction.”
He teaches journalism and environmental studies
at the University of Richmond.
Twilight of the Glaciers, NYT, 29.7.2011,
The century of drought
One third of the planet
will be desert by the
say climate experts
in the most dire warning yet
of the effects of
Published: 04 October 2006
By Michael McCarthy,
Drought threatening the lives of millions will
spread across half the land surface of the Earth in the coming century because
of global warming, according to new predictions from Britain's leading climate
Extreme drought, in which agriculture is in effect impossible, will affect about
a third of the planet, according to the study from the Met Office's Hadley
Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.
It is one of the most dire forecasts so far of the potential effects of rising
temperatures around the world - yet it may be an underestimation, the scientists
involved said yesterday.
The findings, released at the Climate Clinic at the Conservative Party
conference in Bournemouth, drew astonished and dismayed reactions from aid
agencies and development specialists, who fear that the poor of developing
countries will be worst hit.
"This is genuinely terrifying," said Andrew Pendleton of Christian Aid. "It is a
death sentence for many millions of people. It will mean migration off the land
at levels we have not seen before, and at levels poor countries cannot cope
One of Britain's leading experts on the effects of climate change on the
developing countries, Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation, said:
"There's almost no aspect of life in the developing countries that these
predictions don't undermine - the ability to grow food, the ability to have a
safe sanitation system, the availability of water. For hundreds of millions of
people for whom getting through the day is already a struggle, this is going to
push them over the precipice."
The findings represent the first time that the threat of increased drought from
climate change has been quantified with a supercomputer climate model such as
the one operated by the Hadley Centre.
Their impact is likely to even greater because the findings may be an
underestimate. The study did not include potential effects on drought from
global-warming-induced changes to the Earth's carbon cycle.
In one unpublished Met Office study, when the carbon cycle effects are included,
future drought is even worse.
The results are regarded as most valid at the global level, but the clear
implication is that the parts of the world already stricken by drought, such as
Africa, will be the places where the projected increase will have the most
The study, by Eleanor Burke and two Hadley Centre colleagues, models how a
measure of drought known as the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) is likely
to increase globally during the coming century with predicted changes in
rainfall and heat around the world because of climate change. It shows the PDSI
figure for moderate drought, currently at 25 per cent of the Earth's surface,
rising to 50 per cent by 2100, the figure for severe drought, currently at about
8 per cent, rising to 40 cent, and the figure for extreme drought, currently 3
per cent, rising to 30 per cent.
Senior Met Office scientists are sensitive about the study, funded by the
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stressing it contains
uncertainties: there is only one climate model involved, one future scenario for
emissions of greenhouse gases (a moderate-to-high one) and one drought index.
Nevertheless, the result is "significant", according to Vicky Pope, the head of
the Hadley Centre's climate programme. Further work would now be taking place to
try to assess the potential risk of different levels of drought in different
places, she said.
The full study - Modelling the Recent Evolution of Global Drought and
Projections for the 21st Century with the Hadley Centre Climate Model - will be
published later this month in The Journal of Hydrometeorology .
It will be widely publicised by the British Government at the negotiations in
Nairobi in November on a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty. But a preview of
it was given by Dr Burke in a presentation to the Climate Clinic, which was
formed by environmental groups, with The Independent as media partner, to press
politicians for tougher action on climate change. The Climate Clinic has been in
operation at all the party conferences.
While the study will be seen as a cause for great concern, it is the figure for
the increase in extreme drought that some observers find most frightening.
"We're talking about 30 per cent of the world's land surface becoming
essentially uninhabitable in terms of agricultural production in the space of a
few decades," Mark Lynas, the author of High Tide, the first major account of
the visible effects of global warming around the world, said. "These are parts
of the world where hundreds of millions of people will no longer be able to feed
Mr Pendleton said: "This means you're talking about any form of development
going straight out of the window. The vast majority of poor people in the
developing world are small-scale farmers who... rely on rain."
A glimpse of what lies ahead
The sun beats down across northern Kenya's Rift Valley, turning brown what was
once green. Farmers and nomadic herders are waiting with bated breath for the
arrival of the "short" rains - a few weeks of intense rainfall that will ensure
their crops grow and their cattle can eat.
The short rains are due in the next month. Last year they never came; large
swaths of the Horn of Africa stayed brown. From Ethiopia and Eritrea, through
Somalia and down into Tanzania, 11 million people were at risk of hunger.
This devastating image of a drought-ravaged region offers a glimpse of what lies
ahead for large parts of the planet as global warming takes hold.
In Kenya, the animals died first. The nomadic herders' one source of sustenance
and income - their cattle - perished with nothing to eat and nothing to drink.
Bleached skeletons of cows and goats littered the barren landscape.
The number of food emergencies in Africa each year has almost tripled since the
1980s. Across sub-Saharan Africa, one in three people is under-nourished. Poor
governance has played a part.
Pastoralist communities suffer most, rather than farmers and urban dwellers.
Nomadic herders will walk for weeks to find a water hole or riverbed. As
resources dwindle, fighting between tribes over scarce resources becomes common.
One of the most critical issues is under-investment in pastoralist areas. Here,
roads are rare, schools and hospitals almost non-existent.
Nomadic herders in Turkana, northern Kenya, who saw their cattle die last year,
are making adjustments to their way of life. When charities offerednew cattle,
they said no. Instead, they asked for donkeys and camels - animals more likely
to survive hard times.
Pastoralists have little other than their animals to rely on. But projects which
provide them with money to buy food elsewhere have proved effective, in the
short term at least.
century of drought,
On This Day
September 2, 1898
From The Times archives
The average personal consumption
of 150 litres (32 gallons) per day
to be too great
for the available water resources.
Even in 1898 Londoners
struggling with water supply
THE SO-CALLED “water famine” in East London has given rise to a good deal of
descriptive reporting and to loud complaints of the neglect and greed of water
companies in general, and of the East London Water Company in particular: and it
has even formed the subject of some highly coloured references from a City
To begin with, what are the facts? On August 22 the usual constant service over
the district supplied by the East London Water Company was limited to six hours
a day, the result being a reduction of the average daily supply from about 36
gallons per head of the population to 25 or 26 gallons per head. As our
Correspondent points out, it is absurd to speak of this as a water “famine”.
Some inconvenience, no doubt, is caused to people accustomed to have water
always running, and so habitually careless and wasteful in its use as the
East-end population appear to be.
At a time of scarcity and enforced restriction in the supply the voice of the
consumer fills the air. But there is no doubt that, of all the difficulties
which companies have to encounter in fulfilling their contract with the public,
not the least is the consumer himself. The habitual wastefulness and
carelessness of people who enjoy a constant water supply would be incredible if
it were not well attested; and in the ignorant clamour that invariably arises in
a time of scarcity we hear of people deliberately wasting water to spite the
From The Times archives >
On This Day - September 2, 1898,
Related > Anglonautes >
population growth, resources,
nuclear disasters, waste
Earth > resources > water > sea > fishing
Earth > resources > water > drought
weather > heat
weather > heat waves
agriculture / farming,