The Southwest: Ground Zero for Global Warming

Population, in turn, is linked not just to migrations to the Sunbelt, but to national population dynamics and population policies, or lack thereof.  The nation welcomes unfettered immigration absent any consideration of carrying capacity, even though:

  • In  1972,  the  bi-partis an  P res idential Commission on Population Growth and the American Future warned that as we reached 300 million (as happened in 2006), among other challenges, resources would be stretched. They recommended a policy to guide decisions (like immigration) affecting population.12
  • In the 1990s, President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development, as it voiced concerns about a likely U.S. population of 350 million by 2030, advised that immigration be reduced sufficiently for population stabilization.13

Instead, immigration has hovered near 1.2 million a year, with one-third to one-quarter of those initially coming here illegally. That 1.2 million a year is roughly five times historical norms.  We welcome more legal immigrants annually than all other nations in the world combined, absent consideration of carrying capacity or other consequences.

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation

According to an April 2012 Department of Homeland Security report, 1,062,040 immigrants were admitted to legal residency in 2011.14    The number from all sources needed to stabilize U.S. population would be no more than 200,000 a year.15    Illegal immigration which, despite decreases associated with the economic slowdown and efforts against illegal border crossings in states like Arizona, is likely not declining significantly, an argument bolstered by data showing no decline in resident legal population.16

Our fertility rate, now at 1.9—down from 2.1— is below replacement level, but while women are having fewer children, more women than ever are having children, especially first- generation immigrants.  Ours remains one of the highest birth rates in the developed world and births still exceed deaths by roughly two million a year. For perspective, 2007 births exceeded those at the 1957 peak of the baby boom.17  And, almost universally ignored by the press as it ballyhoos a “falling growth rate” is that growth rate is not just births, but births and immigration. Fifty percent of all growth in the Southwest and effectively all growth in California was fueled by immigration in recent years.18


Regional leaders depict—through hubris, ignorance or deliberate deception—that because their states “have rights on the Colorado” the water actually exists at levels long known to be wrong. This speaks volumes as to the negligence of the federal government in not correcting, decades ago, a recognized water-allocation error.

The Southwest—and Atlantic watershed cities like Denver and Albuquerque—is mostly dependent on the Colorado River and its tributaries and on aquifers, which are universally being drawn down faster than they can recharge. (Depression- era humorist Will Rogers quipped that the other “big” river, the Rio Grande, which provides water to New Mexico and Texas, was the only river he’d ever seen that looked like it needed to be irrigated.)

In 1922, the Colorado River was allocated, or divided up, under the federal Colorado River Compact.   It was believed that most years the Colorado would carry 16.4 million acre- feet (m.a.f.) of water.  The Upper Basin states (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico) were

Kathleene Parker

Journalist Kathleene Parker grew up in Durango, Colorado, and is a native of the American Southwest, where her family has lived since 1862. She edited and wrote on energy and environmental topics for a Denver Public Library publication that was circulated to eight states, and more recently, covered Los Alamos National Laboratory and northern New Mexico environmental and timber issues for two major New Mexico dailies.She lives just outside Albuquerque and writes nationally on timber, wildfire, water and population issues, and is an outspoken activist for immigration reduction.

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