Posted by: chrismaser | October 5, 2009


People seldom realize that drinkable water comes predominantly from forested water catchments. Even much of the prehistoric ground water that is pumped to the surface for use in agriculture came from forested water catchments. Salmon, water, and hydroelectric power are forest products just as surely as is wood fiber.1



High elevation water catchments in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon are the main source of water for the populous western part of the state.

As a nation with once bountiful resources, the United States has rarely faced limits to those natural resources.2 Although times have changed, continuing trends and experience indicate that “informed denial” is rampant in that every additional drop of water conserved by one segment of the public is thought to be available for ever-more economic growth by another segment of the public, further raising the demand for more water and more economic growth—like a circular firing squad.3 Effective caretaking of water will necessitate attention to both demand and supply.



The stream on the left is bringing water from the high mountains as it meanders through glacial outwash, and the stream on the right is feeding a mountain lake, even as it builds a delta of silt—both in northeastern British Columbia, Canada.

The availability of water also depends on such variations in components of the hydrologic cycle as precipitation, evaporation, transpiration, infiltration, and runoff. Because these components are interrelated, a change produced by technology in one component of the cycle will inevitably affect the other components.

In the short history of the United States, there have always been more lands and more resources to exploit and a philosophy that technology could supplement natural resources, or even supplant them as needed, an idea confidently stated by L. C. Everard, editor of the 1920 Agricultural Yearbook:

As a Nation we have always stood on our own feet and felt ourselves masters of our own destiny. Our immense and varied natural resources have enabled us to maintain this position and have justified this feeling. It is largely because of our confidence in the sufficiency and permanency of these resources that we have been in the past and are now able to look the future calmly in the eye and go on our way steadily improving the quality of our national life. We have always been able to look beyond the frontier of cultivation to new and untouched fields ready to supply the landless farmer with a homestead and to meet the growing demands of the country for food, clothing, and shelter. The untouched reserve has about disappeared. We have another reserve, however, as vast as that which lay before the pioneers in the old days. It is the grain and meat, the wool and the wood, the thousand and one other products of field and forest that we can add to our store by applying more intensively on the farm and in the forest the scientific principles and methods to come forth from laboratory, sample plot, and experimental farm. As the days go by we learn more and more the underlying causes of success in agriculture, we perfect methods of applying the new discoveries, we reduce more and more the element of chance and guesswork, we grow in knowledge of how to get more and better crops from the land and how to market them where they will do the most good. The answer to the problem of both producer and consumer lies in the extension of our efforts in these directions, in the use and distribution of what we have on the basis of more complete knowledge, and in putting the idle land to work and making all the land work to better purpose.4

Today’s perceived dilemma is one of stretching such resources as water to accommodate the continuing economic growth of the western United States, and elsewhere, while protecting the existing patterns of water use, a behavioral norm requiring levels of technical development that are increasingly damaging ecologically and are no longer feasible economically. Moreover, few people realize that only a small part of the water used in the United States, Mexico, South America, or anywhere else, goes to towns and cities. The overwhelming share is wastefully used for irrigation, particularly in the United States.

In California, for example, where growth in the human population has been virtually unlimited, such growth was possible because, for many years, the “excess” water from the Colorado River was given to the state. That came to an end in 2003, when California had to give up enough water from the Colorado River to supply roughly 1.4 million people in order to ensure allocations of water for six other Western states. This reduction amounted to 13 percent of the total water that California had been taking from the river.

The state could have avoided the cutback, if water agencies in Southern California had resurrected a deal aimed at reducing the state’s over-dependence on the Colorado River. The deal called for a transfer of some of the Imperial Valley’s massive share of the river’s water from the valley’s desert farms to the city of San Diego by the end of 2002. Even so, the Imperial Valley water board, the overseer of the nation’s largest irrigation project, fused to sell a drop of water.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the Colorado River burst through a farm dike in 1905 and flowed unimpeded for more than a year into California’s southeastern desert, where it filled an ancient seabed and created the Salton Sea. Runoff from farms in the Imperial Valley, that annually saw the use of a trillion gallons of the river’s water, kept the sea alive. But with supplies of fresh water running low in the American West, the Salton Sea (largely ignored until 2002) became the center of controversy among the competing interests in the fragile ecosystem that has supported millions of birds and other wildlife for around a 100 years—a region in which farming produces much of the nation’s wintertime vegetables, and fast-growing cities.

The idea of precious water from the Colorado River collecting in an agricultural sump 227 feet (69 meters) below sea level is not well received by those people in Western states for whom continual growth is their focus. These people, from such states as Arizona and Nevada, are ill content to keep the Salton Sea alive if it means foregoing the potential of more water for human consumption, and hence continual economic growth. To such people, saving the Salton Sea is simply a “waste” of water—a loss of potential economic gain.

For residents of the Imperial Valley there is an additional concern. Should the Salton Sea begin to dry up, it might unleash a dust storm much like the one residents of the Owens Valley complained about after the city of Los Angeles made its infamous 1912 water grab in the valley.5

Although people are, for the most part, familiar with the hydrologic cycle, which continues for better or for worse, the idea of a hydrologic continuum is not so familiar. A hydrologic continuum implies the maintenance of a quasi-equilibrium operational balance among the processes within the hydrologic cycle that involve air, water, soil, biosphere, and people. In other words, if withdrawals of water by humans are balanced with Nature’s capacity to replenish the water that is used, the use of water can be measured in such a way that the available, long-term supply is protected from being overtaxed, but would require an overhaul of such government agencies as U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.6 With respect to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s persistence bias toward pro-economic expansion, the initial problem is encompassed in the agency’s name. What is the bureau reclaiming? It’s not reclaiming anything. It’s simple claiming—taking from Nature and euphemizing the act. I say this because to reclaim assumes that something was taken away in the first place. But what did Nature take away from humanity that the bureau has to “reclaim?” Nothing.

That said, we have four options in how we, as a global society, use water: (1) discipline ourselves to use only what is necessary in the most prudent manner, (2) protect the health of entire water catchments and so the supply of snow and, where feasible, ice, (3) simultaneously account for the first two, and (4) take water for granted and use all we want with no discipline whatsoever (as we do now through continual economic expansion) and then wonder what to do when faced with a self-inflicted shortage, as is happening in northern China.

Today, irrigation in northern India is withdrawing underground water faster than it can be replenished, even with the annual soaking by the monsoon rains, which means the water table is constantly being lowered-and has been for some decades. This non-sustainable drawdown of the water table affects a swath 1,243 miles (2,000 kilometers) long, from parts of Afghanistan, eastern Pakistan, northern India, and southern Nepal, to western Bangladesh-an area that is home to more than 600 million people. Moreover, this is one of the most intensely irrigated areas of the world.

Government policies in northern India, which were put into place during the 1960 to boost agricultural production, nearly tripled the amount of acreage (hectares) that was irrigated between 1970 and 1999. In fact, the net loss of groundwater from northern India between April 2002 and June 2008 has been approximately the volume of water that melted from the Alaskan glaciers during that same period. This is probably the greatest rate of groundwater loss in any comparable-sized region on Earth. If this rate of loss is sustained, it will lead to a major crisis in the region because there simply is no substituted for available water. Consequently, this unrestrained use of water is not only threatening agricultural production but also raising the specter of a major water crisis.7

And in northwestern India (the states, of Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana, including New Delhi) the depletion of groundwater from anthropogenic uses from August 2002 to October 2008 was equivalent to a net loss of 26.2 cubic miles (109 cubic kilometers) of water. This amount is double the capacity of India’s largest surface-water reservoir and almost three times the volume of Lake Mead, in the southwestern United States. If measures are not taken soon to ensure sustainable use of the available groundwater, 114 million residents of the region may become economic refugees. Furthermore, this rate of loss in available groundwater mirrors trends in many other areas, including the western United States and China.8

depsnow Deep-winter snow in the high Cascade Mountains of Oregon in March 1958.

Tianjin, a city in northern China, has sunk more than six feet (two meters) in the past from 2000 through 2002, which has damaged buildings and pipelines, as well as concentrating salt and other chemicals in the groundwater. The subsidence is caused by growing number of funnel-shaped areas—more than thirty—beneath the North China Plain, an effect of increased pumping of the groundwater for agricultural and household uses. It is feared that all the funnels will eventually coalesce to undermine an area of 15,400 square miles (24,784 square kilometers).9

Tianjin is not alone, Beijing, capital of the People’s Republic of China, which borders the municipality of Tianjin, finds itself in the throws of an acute water shortage due to a population boom accompaning rapid economic expansion and a decade-long stretch of yearly droughts since 1999. To deal with the water shorage and climate change, a multibillion-dollar North-South Water Diversion is under construction. Once completed, the project will divert one billion cubic yards of water annually, mostly from the Yangtze River, to Beijing. Meanwhile, Chinese officials may be forced to reduce Beijing’s population over the next 5 to 10 years by controlling the number of new arrivals.10

By using all the water we want in a totally undisciplined manner, we are insensitive to both the care we take of the water catchments and the speed with which we mine the supply of stored available water.11 As stated by Professor D.J. Chasan, “One might suppose that people would automatically conserve the only naturally occurring water in a virtual desert, but one would be wrong. Land and farm machinery have capital value. Water in the ground, like salmon in the sea, does not. Just as salmon are worth money only if you catch them, water is worth money only if you pump it.”12 Consequently, we are pumping ground water, and we are damming, diverting, and “channelizing” the rivers to “tame” and “harness” their water for short-term use based on poor economics, rather than nurturing the water catchments to ensure the availability of an adequate, long-term supply of water.

owyhedOwyhee Dam in the state of Oregon.

In fact, a curious thing happens when water flows outside the forest boundary: we forget where it came from. We fight over who has the “right” to the last drop and pay little attention to the supply—the health of the water catchment.

With the growing realization of the ecological interdependency among all living forms and their physical environment, it can hardly be doubted that even so-called “renewable” resources (such as water13) show signs of suffering from the effects of society’s unrelenting materialistic demands for more—to say nothing of the game changes wrought by global warming. These demands have degraded the resources in both quality and quantity. Water can be thus characterized because it is increasingly degraded by soil erosion, increases in temperature, pollution with industrial chemicals, salts from irrigation, and overloads of organic materials.14 Is it any wonder that the hydrological system is under stress?

When global climate change is added to this scenario, the effects could prove to be dire. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is concerned that a warming, drying trend across the southwestern United States could conceivably make major cities in the region uninhabitable sometime within this century—cities such as Las Vegas (Nevada), Phoenix and Tucson (Arizona), and perhaps even Sacramento, (California).15


When wells do go dry, as they are now doing around the outskirts of my hometown, there are four possible explanations that I can think of: (1) wells have been overdrawn, (2) drought has depleted the stored available water and there has not been enough precipitation in any form to replenish it, (3) the health of the water catchments that supply the water is sufficiently degraded to limit the supply, and (4) all of the above. This could change with warming of the global climate, however, in which case it is conceivable that number two above would take over and the supply of available water would simply diminish.

What is important here is what happens when the wells go dry. First, those people who have their own wells are not using water supplied by the community, which means that the capacity of the community’s supply of water is figured without considering those people who have wells. Thus, when the community draws an allocated amount of water from the river, under the auspices of its “water rights,” those people with their own wells are excluded. When the community determines it must increase the size of its water purification plant, the owners of wells are once again omitted from the calculations that determine the volume to be treated for future use.

But what happens when the wells go dry? Clearly, people who have wells must have water to survive because there is no substitute. At some point, they must be served with water from the community. In turn, the community must use more of its available water without increasing the human population, which means less available water overall in case of a protracted shortage.

Is this really a problem? You might think only a few people use wells, and in any case, it’s a big river. Both assumptions may be true, but then, how many people are a few? And remember, we are only talking about one hypothetical community.

Now, the community that happens to be the first, or even the second, or third, to have water rights along the upper reaches of the river may have a relatively secure supply of water. But if the community is the twentieth or thirtieth to have water rights along the same river, that is something else altogether.

If wells are going dry in one community because of a degraded water catchment, or perhaps even a whole ecologically ravaged drainage basin, they are going to go dry in other communities that share the same catchment or basin, which greatly compounds the problem the farther down river one goes. This poses a difficult question: How does one justly adjudicate water rights? Is it based on first come, first serve? Is it contingent on a community’s location along the river continuum? Is it founded on the number of people within a given community? Is it determined by the ratio of agricultural use to household use?

Regardless of how it is done, the river has only so much water. While, it may be possible to increase the supply by healing the water catchments within the drainage basin, this process would take years. How can the growing population along the entire river be accommodated in the interim? What happens if global warming decreases the overall supply of water by lowering the annual amount of total precipitation?

Should any of these things happen, it may be necessary to eliminate some agricultural use of the water in favor of household use, which will affect supplies of locally grown food, not a bright prospect for a community striving for sustainability and greater economic independence. Economic growth would be drastically curtailed, and the value of private property, both agricultural and urban, might plummet.

Yet, with all these negative possibilities, federal, state, county, city, and rural community governments often refuse to deal in any coherent, cooperative, and coordinated way with the health of water catchments and drainage basins on which municipalities depend for potable water—even their own communities. Almost every official with whom I have spoken about this subject over the years has politely shrugged his or her shoulders, looked appropriately helpless, and promptly passed the buck. Those few—those very few—who understood the potential problem, were not in a position of sufficient authority to act, other than through the political chain of command, where they also met with the same helpless shrugs.

For example, I sat for almost three years on an environmental advisory committee for my local area. During that time, the decision was made to increase the capacity of the community’s water purification plant to accommodate building another 5,000 family homes. I suggested that it would be wise to limit the growth of the population by constructing only 3,000 homes and hold in reserve the water for the other 2,000 to accommodate the inevitable shortages during dry years and other unforeseen emergencies.

Their reaction was simple and immediate: They could neither limit the population nor slow economic growth; if the water supply began to dwindle, they would figure out some way to increase it. What they were really saying was that someone else would have to deal with the crisis, so they opted for the easy way out—passing the buck to some generation in the future. This reticence to deal honestly with the issue makes it worth quoting a salient paragraph from a speech Winston Churchill gave to the British Parliament in 1935, as he saw with clear foreboding the onrushing threat of Nazi Germany to international peace:

“When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. . . .  It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong-these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”16

When available water becomes a limiting factor in sufficient degree to cast serious doubt on the future of its supply, the value of real estate will dry up with the water. People upriver, who become increasingly concerned about their own survival and the value of their own property, also become, in my experience, increasingly self-centered out of fear of loss and do whatever they can to save themselves—at the inevitable expense of those downriver. In the end, because a sufficient number of people in positions of leadership lack moral courage and political will to act for the long-term sustainability of the non-substitutable commons (available, good-quality water) the all generations will be place in jeopardy.

As American author Henry Ward Beecher said: “Private opinion is weak, but public opinion is almost omnipotent.”17 What will it take to help people stuck fast in the current self-serving worldview of an ever-expanding economy to see that the limitations of natural resources are real? What will it take to help them see that technocratic/political fixes will no longer work, that fundamental change is necessary?

For example, under current conditions, there is a 10 percent chance that the live storage (the reservoir space from which water can be withdrawn by gravity) from Lake Mead and Lake Powell will be gone by about 2013 and a 50 percent chance their live storage will be gone by 2021 if no changes in water allocation from the Colorado River system are made. This potential is driven by the climate change associated with global warming, the effects of climate variability, and the current operating status of the reservoir system. Under current conditions, there is a 50 percent probability that minimum-power-pool levels will be reached in both Lake Mead and Lake Powell by 2017. Although there is some uncertainty in these dates, they all indicate a major and immediate problem with the potential supply of water from the Colorado-River system, which quite literally is the life’s blood of today’s modern society and economy in the southwestern United States.

Lake Mead straddles the Arizona-Nevada border and Lake Powell is on the Arizona-Utah border. Aqueducts carry water from the Colorado-River system to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and other communities in the Southwest. The system is currently operating at only half capacity because of a recent string of dry years. What’s more, it may already have entered an era of deficit. The Colorado-River system has no buffer to sustain the population of the American Southwest through an unusually dry year—let alone a sustained drought—without sufficient water in both Lake Mead and neighboring Lake Powell.18 And climate change will definitely have a significant impact on the hydrologic cycle wherein changes will be created in freshwater resources, terrestrial vegetative cover, and land-atmosphere feedbacks as mediated by the depth of existing groundwater, which is determined by the lateral flow of water at both the surface and subsurface of the soil. In turn, the depth at which the groundwater occurs establishes the relative susceptibility of a region to changes in temperature and precipitation. It is thus critical to understand the feedback loops by which groundwater controls the processes of recharge and drought in a changing climate.19

There are, for example, two apparently separate problems for humanity joined by a common, increasingly perilous, self-reinforcing feedback loop. Namely, as humanity slips into water bankruptcy in the American Southwest, China, India, and particularly in Southeast Asia due to climate change, nuclear energy and hydroelectric dams concomitantly restrict not only stream flow but also dramatically affect the hydrological cycle, as do bio-fuels, which demand a huge volume of water.20 This is a deadly combination for people because it places them in double jeopardy—the drying of the climate coupled with the artificial restriction of available water. And, many of the new human-induced problems of global warming worsen one another. Trying to keep track of their dynamic, ever-changing interconnectedness is, as columnist Bill Blakemore said, like trying to play a game of “7-dimensional chess.”21


There is still time to resolve the problem of water, but it will require moral courage, self-discipline, strong pressure from those communities working toward social-environmental sustainability, and political will—in other words, real leadership—on the part of people in positions of authority. In addition, it will require reforming the political process that allows corporations and large special-interest donors to contribute to political campaigns in such a way that they buy politicians.

Although the timber industry, as it’s usually thought of, goes from the forest to the mill, the United States—in fact the world as a whole—is founded largely on an interdependent suite of forest-dependent industries that individually and collectively rely much more heavily on abundant, clean water than they do on the growing and harvesting of wood fiber. A forest-dependent industry is any industry that uses raw materials from the forest, including amenities and services like oxygen, water, electricity, and recreation, as well as commodities like migratory animals, such as salmon and steelhead. A forest-dependent industry also includes any industry that uses extractive goods like minerals, wood fiber, forage for livestock, resident fish and game animals, and pelts from fur-bearing mammals.



The water stored in this Cascade Mountain lake (Oregon) is delivered by streams that feed such rivers as the Metolius in central Oregon, which in turn supply the people with this most-precious of liquids.

Some forest-dependent industries are based on amenities and services that are not extractive in the sense that the products either enter and/or leave the forest under their own volition. Such industries include the sport and commercial fisher who catches migratory salmon and steelhead in the ocean and rivers outside of the forest, the farmer who uses water to irrigate crops, the person who markets those crops, the electrical company that uses water converted to electricity, and the municipal water company itself.

Other forest-dependent industries are based on extractive products that are physically removed as raw materials from the forest and made available for refinement. Such industries include timber companies that cut trees; people who gather mushrooms commercially; ranchers who graze livestock in forested allotments; miners who extract ore; hunters, fishers, and trappers who kill and remove forest-dependent wildlife.

Forest-dependent industries that refine the extracted products include carpenters, boatbuilders, artisan woodworkers, anyone who uses paper, meat cutters and packers, and furriers. Finally, these forest-dependent industries are all interwoven because each industry uses one or more of the other’s products, such as water, electricity, wood fiber, red meat, and vegetables. Because all forest-dependent industries center around the availability and use of water, how communities cooperate and coordinate with their respective bioregions is critical.


The setting of a community helps define the community because people select a community for what it has to offer them within the context of its landscape. A logging community is therefore set within a context of forest, a ranching community within a context of lands for grazing livestock, and a community of commercial fishers along a coastline, be it a lake or an ocean. The setting helps create many characteristics that are unique to the community. By the same token, the values and development practices of a community alter the characteristics of its surrounding environment.

In addition to the surrounding environment, the constructed environment within a community is also part of its setting and therefore its identity. Aesthetics, both internal and external, is crucial to how the community defines itself through the philosophy it reflects in its livability. Much of what a community is saying about itself and how it cares or does not care about future generations is reflected in the physical structures with which it chooses to surround itself. This includes buildings, zoning, design of transportation systems, and the allowance of natural occurrences within the structured setting.

In turn, a community’s worldview defines its collective values, which determine how it treats its surrounding landscape. As the landscape is altered through wise use or through abuse, so are the community’s ecological and social options altered in like measure. A community and its landscape are thus engaged in a mutual, self-reinforcing feedback loop of reciprocity as the means by which their processes reinforce themselves and one another.

Each community has physical, cultural, and political qualities that make it unique and more or less flexible. The degree of flexibility among these attributes is important because sustainable systems must be ever flexible, adaptable, and creative. The process of sustainable development must therefore remain flexible, because what works in one community may not work in another or may work for different reasons.

Beyond this, the power of sustainable development comes from the local people as they move forward through a process of growing self-realization, self-definition, and self-determination. Such personal growth opens the community to its own evolution within the context of the people’s sense of place, as opposed to coercive pressures applied from the outside.

Sustainable development encompasses any process that helps people meet their requirements, from self-worth to food on the table, while simultaneously creating a more ecologically and culturally sustainable and just society for the current generation and those that follow. Due to its flexibility and openness, sustainable community development is perhaps more capable than other forms of development of creating such outcomes because it integrates the requirements of a local community with those of the immediate environment and surrounding landscape, as well as neighboring communities. Sustainable community development can thus instill a relative balance between the local community and the bioregion within which it lies.

Bioregion refers to a geographical location and the ideas (collective consciousness) that have developed about how to live in that location with a sense of place. Within a given bioregion, the conditions that influence life are similar and thus have a similar influence on human occupancy. The notion here is that human cultures are differentiated at a bioregional scale in which the characteristics of the geographical region coincide with the collective consciousness of the people and are expressed as a specific culture.

In terms of community sustainability, a bioregion must also be largely self-contained when it comes to an available supply of potable water. There is no chance of social-environmental sustainability without including the water catchment for the entire bioregion, because without a sustainable supply of water, sustainability is merely a paper exercise.



Top: a stream in Pumalin Park, southern Chile, and bottom: a stream in southern Malaysia.

For a community to be socially and ecologically sustainable, it must simultaneously be as economically sustainable as possible, which means that communities must cooperate and coordinate within a well-defined bioregion. This seldom happens, however. The result is that—without a collective vision of sustainability within a well-defined bioregion—communities are no more than economic colonies for national and international corporations. In some cases, such as Ethiopia, which has long been ravaged by famine, the politics of water has kept the tributaries of the Blue Nile flowing into Egypt, while forbidding Ethiopians to use any of the waters, despite the fact that the water originates within Ethiopia’s national boundaries. One of the results from this unjust political situation is that women, as a “profession,” must continually carry huge loads of fuelwood, which physically wracks their bodies, because the people are denied hydroelectric power from the water that originates within their own country.

The whole principle of colonialism is to exploit someone else’s natural resources, shipping as much of the principle as possible, as fast as possible, to whichever market will pay the highest price. Thus, the more communities rely on outside markets, either for import or export of goods and services and/or jobs, the more they become economic and political colonies that progressively give up self-rule—and therefore democracy.

This means that a centralized national and international economy may be good for the corporate-political elite—but not for a local community. To be ecologically and socially sustainable, communities must learn to practice the politics of place, which is what bioregionalism is about.

Bioregionalism is important because each community’s economic sustainability demands that only the ecological interest of a bioregion is marketed. But the centralized corporate economy is in a constant feeding frenzy as it gobbles up all the ecological principle of all the available natural resources it can get. The legacy of this continual enrichment of the already wealthy minority is an increasingly fragile, ever-more endangered local environment.


Pure water is one of the primary components of the global commons and thus everyone’s birthright.

Social-environmental sustainability is therefore dependent on a decentralized political-economic system of democracy if economic sustainability is to be achieved. Economic sustainability, in turn, is dependent on the cooperation and coordination of communities sharing a common vision of the greatest possible economic independence within the broad landscape of a well-defined bioregion.

Such economic independence—and with it the return of a free democracy—will not be easily wrested from corporate control. But it is possible, if communities can find the moral courage and political will to stand united within the umbrella of a shared vision of bioregional social-environmental sustainability for which they are willing to be accountable in the present—at least to the present generation and that of their children and their children’s children.

Here, the required concept is to give water primacy: (1) maximize the quantity of water by protecting its source—snowpac—from clear-cut logging in high-elevation forests, (2) maximize the water’s quality by protecting the headwater streams from all logging and road building and by eliminating the physical and chemical pollution associated with traditional forestry in the water catchments and drainage basins, and (3) protect the availability of the water for all citizens by eliminating wasteful practices in its use.


Related Posts:

• The Link Between Nature’s Commons And Our Cultural Commons

• The Commons Usufruct Law

• Planet Earth As A Biological Living Trust

• The Key Of Choice

• Sunlight Is The Earth’s Only True Investment Of Energy

• Biodiversity–The Variety Of Life

• Soil–The Great Placenta

• Air–The Breath Of Life


• Water–A Captive Of Gravity

1. How Water Gets From Its Source To Cities And The Ocean

2. Roads, Urban Sprawl, And Water

4. The Ocean, Mother Of All Waters


  1. C. Jeff Cederholm, David H. Johnson, Robert Bilby, and others. Pacific Salmon and Wildlife—Ecological Contexts, Relationships, and Implications for Management. Pp. 628684. In: David H. Johnson and Thomas A. O’Neil, Managing Directors. Wildlife-Habitat Relationships in Oregon and Washington. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, OR. 2001
  2. (1) C. Jeff Cederholm, David H. Johnson, Robert Bilby, and others. Pacific Salmon and Wildlife—Ecological Contexts, Relationships, and Implications for Management. Pp. 628-684. In: David H. Johnson and Thomas A. O’Neil, Managing Directors. Wildlife-Habitat Relationships in Oregon and Washington. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, OR. 2001 and (2) J.M. Helfield and R.J. Naiman. Effects of salmon-derived nitrogen on riparian forest growth and implications for stream productivity.Ecology, 82 (2001):2403-2409.
  3. (1) D.W. Schindler, K.G Beaty, E.J. Fee, D.R. Cruikshank, and others. Effects of climatic warming on lakes of the central boreal forest. Science 250 (1990):967-970; (2)Christopher Flavin. Facing Up to the Risks of Climate Change. pp 21-39. In: Lester R. Brown, Janet Abramovitz, Chris Bright, and others. State of the World 1996: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, NY. 1996; and (3) S. McCartney. Watering the west, part 3. Growing demand, decreasing supply send costs soaring. The Oregonian, Portland, OR. September 30,1986.
  4. L.C. Everard (editor). Yearbook 1920. United States Department of Agriculture, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 1921. 888 pp
  5. The preceding discussion of water in California is based on: (1) Corvallis Gazette-Times. California to lose river water rights. Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR. December 28, 2002 and (2) Seth Hettena. Desert sea holds key to water future. The Associated Press. In: Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR. December 29, 2002.
  6. Luna B. Leopold. Ethos, equity, and the water resource. Environment, 2 (1990):16-42.
  7. Steve Newman. North China Subsidence. September 13, 2002. Earthweek: A Diary of the Planet. (accessed on June 2, 2009).
  8. Acute Water Shortage May Cause Beijing Exodus. March. 27 2009. Earthweek: A Diary of the Planet. (accessed on June 2, 2009).
  9. The preceding two paragrphs are based on: (1) Tiwari V. M., J. Wahr, and S. Swenson. Dwindling groundwater resources in northern India, from satellite gravity observations. Geophysical Research Letters, 36 (2009) L18401, doi:10.1029/2009GL039401 (accessed on 29 September, 2009) and (2) Quirin Schiermeier. Satellite data show Indian water stocks shrinking. Nature, 460 (2009):789-789.
  10. (1) Matthew Rodell, Isabella Velicogna, and James S. Famiglietti. Satellite-based estimates of groundwater depletion in India.Nature, 460 (2009):999-1002 and (2) Sid Perkins. New data show quickening loss of groundwater beneath India. Science News, 176 (2009):5-6.
  11. Mark W. Rosegrant, Ximing Cai, and Sarah A. Cline. Global water outlook to 2025: averting an impending crisis. (Food Policy Report) Washington, D.C., International Food Policy Research Institute. 2002. 36 pp.
  12. D.J. Chasan. Up for grabs, inquiries into who wants what. Madrona Publishers, Inc., Seattle, WA. (1977) 133 pp.
  13. (1) Alice Outwater. Water: A Natural History. Basic Books, New York, NY. 1996. 212 pp; (2) The Associated Press. U.N. warning: Billions will face water shortages.Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR. March 23, 2002; and (3) Jim Carlton. From Toilet to Tap: California Project Purifies Sewage Water. The Wall Street Journal. August 15, 2002.
  14. T. Maddock, III, H. Banks, R. DeHan, and others. Protecting the Nation’s groundwater from contamination. U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, OTA-0-233. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. (1984) 244 pp.
  15. Joel B. Smith, Stephen H. Schneider, Michael Oppenheimer, and others. Assessing Dangerous Climate Change Through An Update of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) “Reasons For Concern.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(2009):4133-4137.
  16. Stephen Arroyo. Exploring Jupiter. CRCS Publications, Sebastopol, CA. 1996. 224 pp.
  17. Henry Ward Beecher.
    opinions.html (accessed on April 17, 2009)
  18. The foregoing two paragraphs are based on: (1) Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce. When Will Lake Mead Go Dry? Water Resources Research, 44 (2008):1-22 and (2)Lake Mead could be dry by 2021. American Geophysical Union (accessed on April 17, 2009)
  19. Reed M. Maxwell and Stefan J. Kollet. Interdependence of Groundwater Dynamics and Land-Energy Feedbacks Under Climate Change. Nature Geoscience, 1 (2008):665-669.

  20. (1) Bill Blakemore. Global Warming, Thirsty Energy: 7 Dimensional Chess. (accessed on May 3, 2009); and (2) Michael Casey. SE Asia Will Be Worst-Hit by Climate Change. (accessed on May 4, 2009).
  21. Bill Blakemore. Global Warming, Thirsty Energy: 7 Dimensional Chess. (accessed on May 3, 2009).


In the end, water must reach human communities like Wallgau in Bavaria, West Germany—with the Alps in the background.

Text and Photos © by Chris Maser, 2009. All rights reserved.

Protected by Copyscape Web Copyright Protection

If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.


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