Water scarcity grips the West as Las Vegas grabs the largest allocation of the Colorado River water

In less than twenty years, the western United States will be unable to satisfy the demand for freshwater due to severe drought and a surging population.

In a recent book titled "Unreal City: Las Vegas, Black Mesa, and the Fate of the West", author Judith Nies exposes the contentious history of power, water, and natural resource exploitation in the western United States. The book focuses on the legal robbery of Native American land and the consequent depletion of one of the most important reservoirs of fresh water, the Black Mesa aquifer.

The most disturbing theme discussed in the book is how the US government and influential politicians have enabled the abuse and depletion of Native American land for the benefit of big business, in this case, the coal and energy industry. The book highlights the immense opposition from Native American tribes and their unsuccessful fight to preserve their territory and resources. The biggest culprits are Senators Barry Goldwater and Harry Reid, and Congressmen Morris and Stewart Udall, who used their political power to override any opposition and enable the exploitation of Native American land for profit.

The book also discusses the ongoing tragedy of the thousands of Navajo that were forced to leave their land and their refusal to be replaced by coal strip mining. These practices led to the destruction of some of the most sustainable cultures and communities in the United States. These practices also facilitated the growth of cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix, which benefited from the electricity generated by the coal in the Black Mesa reservoir.

As Nies concludes, the entire urban Southwest has been propped up by federal money for subsidized water. The book also mentions the 1300 abandoned nuclear mines on 27,000 square miles of land home to 250,000 people (37 of them are on the Black Mesa land). These mines are still blowing radioactive dust from the 4 million tons of uranium mined across the Navajo nation, which employed many Navajo who weren't given protective clothing or informed about the toxic radiation of uranium. Since then, studies have found that 85% of Navajo homes had uranium in the dust there. The Navajo have had very high rates of lung cancer, kidney disease and many other health problems as well.

Furthermore, the Black Mesa reservoir is also under threat today from three proposed pumped hydropower projects, proposed by 'Nature and People First' headed by CEO Dennis Payre, who fled France to avoid paying a tax bill of $2.5 million. The proposal includes nine reservoirs and other major infrastructure that would span nearly 50 miles and require 450,000 acre-feet from the Black Mesa aquifer, Colorado, and San Juan rivers. However, mainly the Black Mesa aquifer, given that the entire state of Nevada only has allocation rights to 300,000-acre feet of the Colorado river. Not with 90% of water in Las Vegas coming from these 300,000 acre feet.

Judith Nies argues that the entire urban Southwest has been living off federal money for subsidized water and that the long-term future of desert living is in doubt. Most people will give 100% credit to climate change, which is certainly making this happen sooner than it might have. The book is a must-read for those interested in learning about the contentious history of power, water, and natural resource exploitation in the western United States and the legal robbery of Native American land for the benefit of big business.

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