Category: Water

Stories on rivers, dams, and water resources

A tribe wins rights to contested groundwater in court

A tribe wins rights to contested groundwater in court

Coachella Valley, California
(PascalSijen/ Flickr – Creative Commons)

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians have called the Coachella Valley, a desert that receives a paltry three to five inches of rain a year, home for centuries. And the tribe has been anxious about the state of the water supply for years. In 2013, the tribe sued the Coachella Valley Water District and Desert Water Agency to halt groundwater pumping. And in March 2017, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a major victory to the tribe. The court said the tribe has legal rights to the groundwater — a decision that could restrict housing and resort development and set a precedent for water disputes between tribes and utilities across the West.

The 9th Circuit’s ruling is “a big deal,” says Monte Mills, co-director of University of Montana’s Indian law clinic and one of 11 professors who penned a brief supporting the tribe’s claims. It’s the first time a federal appellate court has unequivocally recognized that tribes’ water rights extend to groundwater.

“A tribe wins rights to contested groundwater in court”

High Country News, April 5, 2017

Dams & Other Obstacles on the Mekong

Dams & Other Obstacles on the Mekong

"Life by the Mekong River" by International Rivers (Photo from Xayaburi Dam site, October 2012)
“Life by the Mekong River” by International Rivers (Photo from Xayaburi Dam site, Oct 2012)

With a massive dam under construction in Laos and other dams on the way, the Mekong River is facing a wave of hydroelectric projects that could alter the river’s ecology and disrupt the food supplies of millions of people in Southeast Asia.

I wrote “Life on Mekong Faces Threats As Major Dams Begin to Rise,” for Yale Environment 360 in February 2014. The story relies on my travels along the lower river from the mountains of northern Thailand to the delta in Vietnam during fall 2013, and interviews with villagers, activists and environmentalists, and scientists.

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The Long Dam Wait

The Long Dam Wait

Construction of Moffat Tunnel near Denver, 1936 (Denver Water)
Construction of Moffat Tunnel near Denver, 1936 (Denver Water)

Colorado water managers say they desperately need to shore up supplies and storage in a region growing larger and seemingly drier. But proposals for major storage and pipelines now face high regulatory hurdles, long waits, and ever-escalating costs.

My September 2013 story for the Northern Colorado Business Report looks at water projects stuck in “regulatory limbo,” and how some cities are adjusting their proposals and expectations in response to new administrative and environmental realities.

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The Ever-Evolving Farmer

The Ever-Evolving Farmer

lamar hay crew 1912
Hay crew, Deeter Farm, Lamar, Colo., 1912 (Source:www.waterarchives.org)

During a summer of drought, farmers, ranchers and agricultural researchers in Colorado are living with and adjusting to environmental changes and economic realities. I wrote on Colorado farmers’ adaptations and attitudes  during dry times (“The Ever-Evolving Farmer”) in the Fall 2012 issue of Headwaters Magazine.

 

 

 

 

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Can Ecomarkets Deliver Paydirt?

Can Ecomarkets Deliver Paydirt?

In the Winter 2011 issue of Headwaters Magazine, I write on ecosystem services and what markets that peddle in prairie dogs, sage grouse and wetlands might look like, and whether they can provide significant financial benefits to farmers and other landowners.

For the article, “Ecomarkets and the Farm of the Future,” I spoke with ranchers, environmentalists, government officials, professors, and one Green Party county commissioner/poet to learn about several efforts getting under way in Colorado, which would establish markets to pay landowners to protect and restore wetlands, floodplains and endangered species habitat, offset damages resulting from development, and provide a supplementary source of income for struggling farmers and ranchers.

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