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Vocapedia > Earth > Water > Ice, seas, oceans, lakes > Resources




Once the city's main water source,

the Los Angeles River is now a concrete channel

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




























































water        USA
















USA > Calirfornia > farmland > water        USA










USA > California > Delta-Mendota Canal in San Joaquin County        USA










USA > California > San Luis reservoir        USA








dam        USA


























farmers > drought > groundwater >

store water in underground aquifers during wetter years /

pump water from underground aquifers        USA
















USA > Colorado > water        USA










water use        USA










USA > gallon        USA





















water shortages        USA










global water shortages        UK












water outages        USA










global water crisis        UK / USA





























































water crisis        USA






















USA > America's water crisis        UK

















water war        USA










The water footprint of the world – map        UK        published 2012


Water used

by the agricultural sector

accounts for nearly 92%

of annual global

freshwater consumption,

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






pipeline        USA

























USA > running water        UK / USA












tainted tap water        USA


















water table





drop of water





water distribution > California        USA






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


Photographer: Ed Clark


Life Images

http://images.google.com/hosted/life/687cc0fd0fdb4746.html - broken link















river        USA


















endangered river        USA


























USA > The Colorado River

is like a giant bank account

for seven different states.


Now it's running short.


For decades,

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.        USA



40-million-people-rely-on-the-colorado-river-its-drying-up-fast - August 27, 2021














Colorado River,

America’s most legendary white-water river        USA






















USA > Rio Grande        UK










Thames        UK










Human impact on world's rivers        UK





































Arctic seas        UK






deep sea        UK











oceanographer        UK








Pacific ocean        2008






El Niño










melting        USA






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

top/news/science/series/thebigmelt/index.html - broken link





thawing permafrost

Climate change hits Alaska's national parks

us-alaska-climate-idUSTRE71B23320110214 - broken link





Mt. Kilimanjaro ice cap        Tanzania        USA






Arctic ice > Northwest Passage        USA






loss of Arctic ice        UK / USA








Arctic melt        December 2008        UK








avoid the melting of the polar ice caps





glaciologist        USA


















Severed from the edge of Antarctica,

this iceberg might float for years

as it melts and releases its store of fresh water into the sea.


The water molecules will eventually evaporate, condense,

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        USA










coral reefs        USA






Australia > The Great Barrier Reef        USA





















abyssal plain





underwater vent





marine biologist










rising tides





















US > lakes        UK












Corpus of news articles


Earth > Resources > Water




Water Piped to Denver

Could Ease Stress on River


December 9, 2012

The New York Times



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 century.

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 required.

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 have.”

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 Continental Divide.

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 River,






Fees and Anger Rise

in California Water War


April 23, 2012

The New York Times




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 mystique.

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 consequences.

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 discriminating against.”

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 once were).

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 egg.”

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,






Where the Colorado Runs Dry


February 14, 2012
The New York Times



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 generations.

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 briefly.

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.


Jonathan 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


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 ridiculous.

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 east.

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 Glacier.

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 2020.

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 dread.

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 Sexton’s.

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 half-century ago.

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 urgently.

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



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 two-hour trip.

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.



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 park.

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.





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 Environmental Quality.)

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.



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 year 2100,
say climate experts
in the most dire warning yet
of the effects of global warming


Published: 04 October 2006

The Independent

By Michael McCarthy,

Environmental Editor


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 scientists.

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 with."

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 severe effects.

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 themselves."

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.


Steve Bloomfield

The century of drought,
I, 4.10.2006,






On This Day


September 2, 1898


From The Times archives


The average personal consumption
of 150 litres (32 gallons) per day
is thought to be too great
for the available water resources.
Even in 1898 Londoners
were 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 pulpit.

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 company.

From The Times archives >
On This Day - September 2, 1898,












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population growth, resources,

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