Saturday, June 28, 2014

End of June Weekend Reads

 Some good reads for the middle of the year:

Why the Voting Rights Act Still Matters: The Case of Jasper, Texas - Norm Ornstein.  Includes a mention of Piqua's own William McCulloch.  I don't think he'd fit into today's Republican Party, but he'd definitely recognize today's Jasper, Texas.

The Ugly Cycle of Air Pollution and Climate Change - Pacific Standard

Top Green Beret Officer Forced To Resign Over Affair With WaPo Reporter - ABC News, via Longreads.  She lived at his combat post in Afghanistan for 9 months.

A Century Ago in Sarajevo: A Plot, A Farce and a Fateful Shot - Morning Edition.  See also, The War to End All Wars? Hardly.  But It Did Change Them Forever - New York Times

Where are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.? - New York Times.  Of course the Upper Midwest and the northern Plains are amongst the best places, while the South is generally worst.  It looks like Western Ohio gets hurt by being too close to Indiana.

Hero worship of the military is getting in the way of good policy - Washington Post

Wind Power Production Record Broken in Texas and Tiny Electric Grids Help States Weather Extreme Storms - Scientific American

The Near-Death of Grand Central Terminal - Harper's

Belgium: One Team, Divided Nation - AP

Why You Hate Work - New York Times

Against the Grains - Aeon

The Next Breadbasket - National Geographic.  African agriculture and the foreign land grab.

Look at All These Design Masterpieces, Created By Anonymous Geniuses - Wired (see video below)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

North Atlantic Skies

From Laughing Squid:
“North Atlantic Skies” is a data visualization of the airline flights across the North Atlantic between Canada, the United States, and Europe in August 2013. The visualization was created by NATS, a United Kingdom air traffic control service provider, and showcases a period of 24 hours with 2,524 flights total. We previously wrote about a similar visualization by NATS of airline flights in Europe.
Pretty cool

Ride the Sky

Ride the Sky from Page Films on Vimeo.

Keep Smoking The Crack

In order to disrupt the formation of tornadoes, crazy folks have proposed building three 160 feet wide by 1000 feet high walls across the Great Plains.  I'd seen the idea pop up last year, but this was the first time I looked at any numbers:
Jiang-Huai Hills do not extend to Pacific ocean, leaving a small plain area, north part of Jiangsu province, unprotected. This small area, similar to US Tornado Alley, has annually recurring tornado outbreaks. For example, the city Gaoyou in this area has a nickname "Tornado hometown", which has tornado outbreaks once in two years on average. It is thus clear that Jiang-Huai Hills are extremely effectively in eliminating tornadoes formation. Without Jiang-Huai Hills, a quite big area in China would become "Tornado Hometown"
While there are no mountains in Tornado Alley to play the same role as Jiang-Huai Hills etc in China, there are two small mountains, Ozarks Mountains and Shawnee Hills, which significantly reduce tornado risk for some local areas.
Ozark Mountain consists of high and deeply dissected plateaus; the mountain hills are south-north ranged. Most parts of these north-south hills cannot block or weaken air mass flow between north and south. Therefore, for example, Joplin has very high tornado risk as it faces the north-south deeps and valleys formed by these hills, the winds get more strength as they pass these valleys and deeps. On the other hand, some small sections of St. Francois Mountains and Boston Mountains have the hills east-west connected. Therefore, for example, Rolla, Missouri has very low tornado risk, as analyzed by
The devastating tornado outbreak in Washington County, IL on November 17, 2013 also reminds us about Shawnee Hills, which is a small mountain, 60 miles east from Washington County. Most Shawnee Hills are along the south - north direction, but some sections are east-west connected, located at the south border of Gallatin County. Therefore, Gallatin County has very low tornado risk, although the most land in Gallatin County is flat farm land, same as Washington county.
According to Dr. Tao, the above information learned from Nature is very encouraging. Although there are no east-west mountains in Tornado Alley, we can build some east-west great walls to play the same role. Also learned from Jiang-Huai Hills and Shawnee Hills, the wall needs about 300 meter high and 50 meter wide.
To eliminate the tornado threat for the entire Tornado Alley, we may need to build three great walls. The first one should be close to the northern boundary of the Tornado Alley, maybe in North Dakota. The second one should be in the middle, maybe in the middle of Oklahoma and going to east. The third one can be in the south of Texas and Louisiana.
Such great walls may affect the weather, but their effect on the weather will be minor, as evidenced by Shawnee Hills in Illinois. In fact, with scientific design, we may also use these walls to improve the local climate.
In Philadelphia, there is one skyscraper building, Comcast Center, about 300 meter high. From the cost of Comcast Center, we estimate that to build one mile such wall, we need about $160 million. On the other hand, the damages caused by single tornado attack in Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013 alone were multi billion dollars. Therefore, it seems that the cost for building such a wall is affordable.
While building the three great walls will eventually eliminate major tornadoes in the entire Tornado Alley, we do not expect to start such a huge project in the near future. On the other hand, it is more realistic to build such great walls locally at high tornado risk areas first, then connect them piece by piece. To do so locally, we must remember that from air fluid dynamics, the area protected by the wall is roughly a circle with the wall as its diameter.
Also in developing any new city in Tornado Alley in future, we may consider to build east-west skyscraper buildings first, then allocate the other parts of the city surrounding the skyscraper buildings. In such a way, the skyscraper buildings will serve as a wall, eliminating major tornado formation in their surroundings to protect the whole city.
I'm not sure how long these walls are supposed to be, as the mountains in China the press release mentions are between 180 and 500 miles long.  I'm also not sure how they took a building that is maybe 200 feet by 200 feet at the base, and 1000 feet tall, and cost $540 million (via wikipedia), and figured that a 5280 feet long, 160 feet wide and 1000 feet tall wall (made of what, I don't know) would cost $160 million.  Anyway, even if it were feasible to build three of these across the Great Plains, there will be several hundred miles between them.  I'm guessing that gap may be big enough to allow tornadoes to form up.  Plus, the wall would seem like a speed bump for continental weather systems.  In fact, I would expect a wall to be destroyed by a tornado in the early stages of construction.  I think I'll go back to doing some work instead of wasting time trying to fathom how this shit gets published anywhere outside of the Onion.

Gulf Dead Zone Estimated To Be Size of Southwest Ohio

Des Moines Register:
U.S. scientists are expecting an average "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico in 2014 that will cover an area about the size of the state of Connecticut.
The forecast, developed by researchers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University, and the U.S. Geological Survey, among others, said the dead zone, located off of Louisiana and Texas, is expected to reach a size of between 4,633 and 5,708 square miles.
The zone is caused by nutrient runoff, primarily from human activities such as wastewater and fertilizer used in agriculture to grow crops. The runoff stimulates an oversupply of algae that consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in the water, driving away sea life.
The largest dead zone on record was 8,480 square miles in 2002.
"We are making progress at reducing the pollution in our nation's waters that leads to 'dead zones,' but there is more work that needs to be done," said Kathryn Sullivan, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and an administrator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
For reference, 10 counties in southwestern Ohio, stretching from Hamilton and Clermont County to Shelby and Mercer County, totals 4531 square miles.  That's a pretty big anoxic zone.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Solitude: New Zealand

Shale Oil Is Very Volatile

Millions of barrels of crude oil flowing from shale formations around the country—not just North Dakota—are full of volatile gases that make it tricky to transport and to process into fuel.
Oil from North Dakota's Bakken Shale field has already been identified as combustible by investigators looking into explosions that followed train derailments in the past year.
But high gas levels also are affecting oil pumped from the Niobrara Shale in Colorado and the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin in Texas, energy executives and experts say.
Even the refineries reaping big profits from the new oil, which is known as ultralight, are starting to complain about how hard it is to handle with existing equipment. Some of what is being pumped isn't even crude, but condensate: gas trapped underground that becomes a liquid on the surface.
The federal government says 96% of the growth in production since 2011 is of light and ultralight oil and that is where growth will continue.
The huge volume of this gassy new oil has created a glut, pushing prices to $10 or more below the level of traditional crude. Energy companies think they could get higher prices by sending the new oil abroad, which explains some of the push to lift a U.S. ban on exporting crude. Federal officials recently gave two companies permission to export condensate under certain circumstances.
This new crude can act like a popped bottle of Champagne, says Sandy Fielden, an analyst with consulting firm RBN Energy. "If it's very light, it froths over the top" of refinery units, he says. Many refiners "can't manage that in their existing equipment."
I never anticipated seeing refiners complain that crude was too light and too sweet.  Yeah, it's a damn shame our refineries were set up to run the sour shit coming out of the tar sands, and now we are getting too much light, sweet.  At least the producers can find refineries in other nations which can handle the easy to process shit.  Yeah, I have a hard time buying the, "this is too light and too sweet" line of bullshit.

I should note that producers are now admitting that this big boost in "crude" production actually includes a lot of natural gas liquids, which apparently work as a replacement for crude oil in industrial use, but not for diesel or gasoline production.  Keep an eye on production from the Eagle Ford and Bakken.  I would anticipate slower increases of production going forward as we approach peak production from these fields.  Early wells from the Bakken should be approaching the rapid decline portion of their production curve, so it will take more new wells to replace the peak production of the older wells.

Rain Follows The Plow

Wired looks at the disastrous myth, greed and wishful thinking that helped create the Dust Bowl:
Call it superstition or call it pseudoscience, what began as mythology among the Great Plains farmers eventually turned into a widely accepted scientific theory in the U.S. between 1865 and 1875: “The rain follows the plow.” Journalists, scientists, government officials, you name it—Americans were convinced that through their farming they’d goaded Mother Nature into providing more water. That is, until Mother Nature suddenly shut off the spigot and showed us just how disastrously wrong we’d been.
The spread of the myth, according to Henry Nash Smith in his essay “Rain Follows the Plow: The Notion of Increased Rainfall for the Great Plains,” can be largely blamed on America’s most reliable villain: greed. It was those standing to profit from a prosperous West—the real estate speculators, the railroads, and the politicians—who propagated the tale, for “the pressures making for high estimates of the economic potentialities of the plains were strong and varied,” Smith writes.
Of course, where did the main exponent of the theory find his proof? Why, the Bible, of course:
Now enter Charles Dana Wilber, an amateur scientist (not that being an amateur in this whole mess was any excuse) who was in the habit of building whole towns in Nebraska—the type of man my father would call a “real piece of work.” He had a “gift of phrase much greater than that of Aughey,” writes Smith, and was the fellow responsible for the maxim “rain follows the plow.”
Wilber wrote: “To those who possess the divine faculty of hope—the optimists of our times—it will always be a source of pleasure to understand that the Creator never imposed a perpetual desert upon the earth, but, on the contrary, has so endowed it that man, by the plow, can transform it, in any country, into farm areas.” (Why God wouldn’t just make it rain more in the first place without having humans do all the work is a bit unclear, but I suspect much of Wilber’s thinking was unclear.)
So how did Wilber know God set it up this way? It was in the Bible, of course, specifically Genesis. From Wilber (parentheticals his own, except for this one, obviously): “But there went up a mist (dew) from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground; for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, (because) and there was not a man to till the ground.”
What terrible idea can't be "proven" by interpretation of the Bible? But after a drought brought the theory into question, proponents came up with another "solution," dynamite:
Yet in the 1890s, agricultural pseudoscience simply took on another form. The idea came around that explosives could be used to generate the vibrations required for rainfall. Folks seemed to realize that while not nearly as nutritious, dynamite sure was a much more entertaining way to produce rain than breaking your back growing a bunch of crops. But that’s a story for another week.
I will look forward to that post.  For entertainment until then, you can read about "Operation Plowshare," where nuclear weapons were tested for mass excavation.

What To Expect From El Nino

Via Ritholtz:

I can handle dry December to March.  I don't want to see dry April-September.

And if you want to know what to expect from El Guapo, it is this:

Wisconsin Voter Fraud Alleged

A Wisconsin man is charged with voting 5 times in the recall election for Scott Walker, and driving to Indiana to vote a second time in the 2012 Presidential election:
A Shorewood man has been charged with more than a dozen counts of illegal voting, accused of casting multiple ballots in four elections in 2011 and 2012, including five in the 2012 gubernatorial recall.
Robert D. Monroe, 50, used addresses in Shorewood, Milwaukee and Indiana, according to the complaint, and cast some votes in the names of his son and his girlfriend's son.
According to the complaint:
Monroe cast two ballots in the April 2011 Supreme Court election, two in the August 2011 Alberta Darling recall election, five in the Scott Walker-Tom Barrett recall, one illegal ballot in an August 2012 primary, and two ballots in the November 2012 presidential election.
In the presidential election, Monroe cast an in-person absentee ballot in Shorewood on Nov. 1 and drove a rental car to Lebanon, Ind., where he showed his Indiana driver's license to vote in person on election day, Nov. 6, the complaint charges. Monroe owns a house there, according to the complaint.
The 26-page criminal complaint was filed Friday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court and is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, one of the prosecutors involved in the John Doe investigations of Gov. Scott Walker's staff when he was county executive and the now-halted probe into fundraising by Walker's gubernatorial campaign.
The complaint indicates the investigation started in Waukesha County as an inquiry into possible double voting by Monroe's son, who lives in Waukesha. But the son denied any knowledge of requesting an absentee ballot from his father's Shorewood address, and the investigation shifted back to Milwaukee County.
It then proceeded, in part, as it related to yet another John Doe investigation apparently unrelated to Walker, records of which were recently ordered unsealed, according to the complaint.
The complaint says investigators went as far as testing absentee ballot envelopes, supposedly sent by other people, to find only Monroe's DNA, and no DNA of the voters allegedly casting the votes.
It includes text messages between Monroe and his ex-wife, sons and brother, strongly urging them to vote. One text May 23, 2012, to a son reads, "You must go to city hall and register to vote. Every vote will be needed!... Please please please."
The complaint refers to Monroe as an executive within the health care industry who earned a master's degree in business administration at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2013.
Well, I guess Republicans are right, some people do vote multiple times in an election (and maybe they should know because they are the ones doing it).  The only person I've known of to do this indicated they voted once in Ohio and once in South Carolina for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Crazy People Collect Jeans, Too

$100,000 for 130-year-old jeans? Seriously? Does that make dad's old jeans worth $20,000 or so? I really don't understand people.

More On Herbicide-Resistant Weeds

The WSJ has this chart:

Weeds have evolved to be resistant to herbicide after herbicide, starting with synthetic auxins, then triazines, then ACCase inhibitors, then ALS inhibitors and now glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, according to Director of the International Survey of Herbicide-Resistant Weeds Ian Heap, who helps run, the central repository for scientifically backed, peer-reviewed herbicide-resistance cases....
According to Mr. Heap, “Unfortunately we have not seen any new herbicide sites of action in over 30 years, and it is not clear that any new ones are in the pipeline.” This means that the focus is shifting to preventing resistance to herbicides in the first place. According to Steven B. Mirsky a research ecologist at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, there are a number of ways to reduce herbicide resistance using weed-management tools such as cover crops. Heap also suggests rotating crops and herbicides to avoid resistance. Science Policy Director of National and Regional Weed Science Societies Lee Van Wychen suggested one of his favorite quotes: “If you had great weed control this year, do something different next year!”
Honestly, that is all common sense.  What surprises me is that the most herbicide-resistant cases by an individual crop are for wheat.   Around here there isn't a whole lot of wheat grown, and what is grown doesn't get sprayed near as much as the corn and beans (I'm assuming because the growth pattern of wheat confounds our winter and spring weeds).  If you asked me, I'd guess corn, then soybeans then wheat.  I'd be wrong, apparently.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

NASA Photo of the Day

June 19:

Over the Top
Image Credit & Copyright: Luc Perrot
Explanation: The central bulge of our Milky Way Galaxy rises above a sea of clouds in this ethereal scene. An echo of the Milky Way's dark dust lanes, the volcanic peak in foreground silhouette is on France's Réunion Island in the southern Indian Ocean. Taken in February, the photograph was voted the winner of the 2014 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest's Beauty of the Night Sky Category. This and other winning and notable images from the contest were selected from over a thousand entries from 55 countries around planet Earth. Also featured in the contest compilation video (vimeo), the moving images are a testament to the importance and beauty of our world at night.

Red Town, Blue Town

A map that purportedly shows the most conservative and most liberal town in each state:

Knowing western Ohio, I thought this was interesting:
The map is based on a series of questions that ask about party affiliation, abortion, global warming, gun control, and taxes. So it doesn't pick up the nuance of some political issues, but it does cover a range of topics.
Some of the results aren't really shocking. I don't think anyone is going to be in awe that Berkeley, California, for instance, is the most liberal town in California.
But there are a few surprises. The liberal Wichita, Kansas, for example, is right by the conservative Elbing, Kansas. As an Ohioan, I was also a little surprised to see the most conservative town in the state is in the northwest part of the state instead of the notoriously conservative southwest portion, where Speaker John Boehner is from.
No, I wasn't surprised that the most conservative town in Ohio would be in northwest Ohio.  All of Western Ohio is very conservative (with the exception of Cincinnati proper, Dayton, Toledo and usually Bowling Green), but northwestern Ohio is absurdly so, certainly because it is so rural and so white.  I am more surprised that Wichita, home of Operation Rescue, would be considered the most liberal town in Kansas.  I'd figure Lawrence would score that title.  Looking at Iowa, I'm not surprised that the most conservative town is shown to be in the northwest corner of the state.  I would imagine that most of the red dots on the map are in less populated, less diverse and generally less prosperous areas (and also areas of the least growth/greatest population decline, at least outside of city cores) of the state than the blue dots.  I'm not drawing any conclusions from that, but I think it is notable. 

The End of NCAA Exploitation?

Charles Pierce reports on O'Bannon v. NCAA, and the potential end of the sham known as amateurism under the NCAA:
The NCAA lawyers led Emmert [ed. note: the current president of NCAA] through an easy direct examination. However, Emmert went for the water bottle after his first question, and that was one about his résumé. Jimmy Breslin once pointed out that drinking water on the stand is a convincing tell that the witness is not comfortable. Emmert drank as though he were sitting in a sand dune.
But he held to his main point, which was that amateurism, which he defined as not paying college athletes for playing their sports, was a “core value” of the NCAA, and that to strike at amateurism, as he and his organization define it, is to strike at the very substance not only of college sports, but of higher education itself. When asked by NCAA lawyer Glenn Pomerantz if paying the players for the use of their names, images, and likenesses would be a violation of his concept of amateurism, Emmert said, “Yes, very much so.” Pomerantz then asked Emmert to explain why paying the players for the use of their names, images, and likenesses was a violation of the concept of amateurism, but the fact that the NCAA and the colleges got rich off those same names, images, and likenesses, was not. Emmert essentially restated the same point the NCAA has been making through the entire trial: The NCAA and its member schools (pardon me, its “educational institutions”) create the game itself and, therefore, are entitled to all the revenues thereby derived, out of which they give the athletes tuition, fees, room and board, and miscellaneous expenses while providing those athletes with invaluable life skills and social mobility. But the NCAA and the educational institutions get all the money. Forever. This, as Emmert argued, and as was argued by the NCAA in one of its pretrial briefs, was for the good of the athletes because the NCAA does not want to see them “exploited” by corporate interests, or at least by those corporate interests with which the NCAA has not yet signed a lucrative partnership deal.
It is here where we pause to discuss the Curious Case Of Zach Bohannon. He was a 6-foot-6 swingman for the Wisconsin Badgers this past season, when he and Wisconsin made it to the NCAA Final Four. He also was working toward his MBA. He arrived at one of the Wisconsin practices with a bottle of water from Nestlé Pure Life. The NCAA’s official bottled water is Dasani, a division of NCAA “corporate partner” Coca-Cola. Arena security stopped Bohannon — a player in last year’s Final Four — and made him take off the Nestlé label before they would allow him to practice with his team. Bohannon told a reporter, “The NCAA likes to hide behind its student-athlete model. Well, they can’t hide anymore.”
The NCAA scheme is the most bare exploitation of athletes ever.  However, the multi-billion dollar athletic-industrial complex at U.S. universities is just the most ridiculous aspect of the completely off-the-rails higher education system in the United States.  The growing student debt issue and the warped job market combine to highlight an overall system in crisis.  Major universities are using some of the massive profits from sports to fund research and student aid on the academic side of the balance sheet, which is heavily skewed toward sucking in government aid and massive donations from the extremely wealthy.  The "amateurism" of the NCAA will eventually end, but what happens to all that money that doesn't end up with ridiculously overpaid coaches and school presidents, and actually goes toward the actual university?  Players deserve most of it, but then we end up with a professional minor league system illogically aligned with institutes of higher education.  No matter the outcome of this court case, there are huge changes coming to the nation's campuses and to big-time sports in general. 

Corn Belt Preps For Fight With Palmer Amaranth

Des Moines Register:
Hartzler, Owen and others are trying to determine whether Palmer amaranth, discovered in Iowa last year, is resistant to glyphosate.
"If I was a betting man, and I am, I'd say we've got glyphosate-resistant Palmer in Iowa," Owen said. Hartzler believes the superweed is likely growing in more than five counties.
The tiny seed spreads easily — by farm equipment that moves across state lines and fields, in cotton byproducts that are fed to dairy cows, even potentially by birds, experts say.
The states around Iowa are already fighting glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, including Illinois, Missouri and Kansas.
Waterhemp, a similar-looking but wimpier cousin of Palmer amaranth, is resistant to glyphosate and other herbicides in Iowa. "At least 50 percent of fields in Iowa have waterhemp that's resistant to glyphosate. It's our No. 1 weed problem," Hartzler said.
It's difficult to distinguish between waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, both pigweeds, especially when they're small, he said. But Palmer amaranth is stronger and faster-growing. It can quickly overrun a soybean crop. Corn is tougher in a matchup.
Waiting even a long weekend to kill Palmer amaranth can result in the plant getting too large to kill with a herbicide. The weed can grow 2 inches a day and needs to be sprayed when it's 4 to 6 inches in size.
Add spring rains or wind to the equation, and farmers can quickly miss the window, Hartzler said.
Already, U.S. farmers are being forced to use more herbicides to control waterhemp. "We've already seen a big leap, and Palmer amaranth will increase it more," he said.
A Muscatine County farmer who discovered Palmer amaranth last fall decided to mow down part of a soybean field to control it. "He knew if he tried to harvest it, the Palmer amaranth seed would get inside the combine, and it's nearly impossible to clean it out," said Hartzler, who determined that weed wasn't yet resistant to glyphosate. "He didn't want to spread it to other fields."
The Iowa Soybean Association has asked farmers to carefully scout fields and nearby ditches for Palmer amaranth. They're being urged to treat any pigweed like it's herbicide-resistant, meaning aggressively stamping it out when it's small.
Young, the Arkansas farmer, said he initially thought he had missed spraying a small patch of weeds that turned out to be resistant to Palmer amaranth. Within a short time, the weed had spread to all the fields he farms.
On the optimistic side, Palmer Amaranth in the corn belt may prove to be an over-hyped threat like soybean rust turned out to be.  We spent around 2 or 3 years in the mid 2000s freaking out about soybean rust, and the the damage hasn't materialized. Yet (climate change may make it a longer-term threat).  On the more realistic side, it is obvious that Roundup-resistant weeds are going to be a long-term problem, and I know of no reason why Palmer Amaranth can't spread from Arkansas to the corn belt.  Maybe the shorter growing season and the harsher winters will help us in checking its spread.  Maybe the time spent fighting it down south will give the chemical companies a chance to develop new products to use in the fight.  I'm not extremely worried about it yet, but it is defintely something to keep an eye on.

Western States Face Tough Choices Over Water Supply

 Lake Mead and Hoover Dam

In the water battle between rural and urban interests, it looks like a century of western water law will have to give way to political reason, and farmers will end up losing.  But it will be an ugly fight.  Here's Michael Hiltzik describing the central issue on the Colorado River:
A quick history lesson: The Colorado Compact, reached by six of the seven basin states in 1922 under then-Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, aimed to replace the tangle of state water allocation laws with a single legal regime in order to get the dam built. (Arizona finally signed the deal in 1944.) But the compact was based on a fraud — an estimate of river flows that Hoover and the states' negotiators almost certainly knew was wildly optimistic.
Many times, the compact has been revised and supplemented to meet changing conditions. In 1968, Congress authorized construction of the Central Arizona Project, a massive aqueduct serving Phoenix and Tucson, by passing the Colorado River Basin Project Act. Arizona agreed to be last in line for water from the Colorado if a serious drought struck.
The bill's drafters probably never thought supplies would become so tight. But the bill from nearly a century of overuse is on the verge of coming due. During the last 50 years, according to figures from the Reclamation Bureau, the population served by the river has grown from 12 million to 30 million. Over that period, the average flow on the river has fallen from 15.5 million acre-feet to as low as 12 million. (An acre-foot serves two households a year.)
The river's apparent abundance has encouraged exceptionally wasteful usage. For example, thirsty forage crops such as alfalfa and pasture land account for as much as half the irrigated acreage in California, according to a report last year by the Pacific Institute. And as my colleague David Pierson reported recently, much of the harvest is shipped to China.
The Pacific Institute finds that stingier but still effective irrigation practices could save nearly 1 million acre-feet a year throughout the Colorado basin, and replacing alfalfa with cotton and wheat would save 250,000 acre-feet. But plainly, a trade pattern that effectively exports the West's scarce water to China isn't sustainable.
The article mentions that draining Lake Powell is being discussed as a real possibility.  That shows how much rethinking is going on out there. Unchecked urban growth, combined with massively subsidized irrigation practices in agricultural production are going to blow up western water law.  It is politically infeasible to continue allowing agriculture nearly unfettered access to ridiculously cheap water while cities get thirsty.  Mother Nature is going to force a rethinking of urban growth and agriculture in the American Southwest.  I expect agriculture to be forced to give first, but urban growth will also slow to a crawl eventually.  It really makes no sense to work so hard to live in a place people never were intended to live in.