September 14, 1986: New York Times headline–When the Bill for the Marvels Falls Due. Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water. By Marc Reisner. It’s unlikely that most taxpayers will read Cadillac Desert, but they should. It’s a revealing, absorbing, often amusing and alarming report on where billions of their dollars have gone – and where a lot more are going. The money has gone into Federal water projects in the Western states – some of the projects awesome, some scandalous but all with an uncertain future. More than a century ago John Wesley Powell, the nation’s pioneer hydrographer and an explorer of the Grand Canyon, concluded that so much of the West was virtually desert that if all the flowing water in the region were applied to it, the water would spread too thin to make much difference.
But that didn’t daunt several generations of pioneers, who believed the selective harnessing of available water could yield miracles. And it did. It virtually created modern California, making it the nation’s most populous state and one of the world’s prime agricultural areas. On a smaller scale, similar marvels were wrought in other states – Arizona, Utah, Colorado, the Dakotas, Montana and even Nevada.
UPDATE: Thousands of taxpayers did read Cadillac Desert. A revised version was published in 1993 and a four-part documentary was released in 1997.
September 14, 1989: New York Times headline–New Hazard Is Seen at Colorado Weapons Plant. Colorado’s effort to protect drinking water supplies around the highly contaminated Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant has raised a new safety problem: what to do with tainted water that is filling a storage pond now that the state has barred releases from it. State officials briefly declared an alert Tuesday when they feared that the pond, 75 percent full because of recent rain and snow, might breach its earthen dam and cause a flood. At the hour they declared the alert, they were conducting a drill in which the script for a mock disaster included a leak from another storage pond at the plant, which makes triggers for nuclear weapons. The alert was lifted after a quick inspection, but the state and the plant managers are still discussing what to do with the water. The water contains a herbicide, atrazine, at a level exceeding a limit that the Federal Environmental Protection Agency proposes to set for drinking water. It also contains two other chemicals, manganese and sulfide, at levels that could alter the smell and taste of drinking water.