In case you missed it, there was a recent dust-up between opinionators at the Los Angeles Times and the Arizona Republic over which city has the worst reputation for importing water and which has the poorest outlook in terms of drought and climate change.
It started Thursday March 14 with the LAT op-ed piece "Phoenix's Too Hot Future" by William deBuys, author of "A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest."
The editorial board for the Phoenix-based Arizona Republic answered Friday March 15 with "Los Angeles More of a Water Vacuum than Phoenix," and a video featuring Republic editors Joanna Allhands and Doug MacEachern.
Here's the first three graphs from deBuys:
If cities were stocks, you'd want to short Phoenix.
Of course, it's an easy city to pick on. The nation's 13th-largest metropolitan area crams 4.3 million people into a low bowl in a hot desert, where horrific heat waves and windstorms visit it regularly. And it depends on an improbable infrastructure to suck water from the distant (and dwindling) Colorado River.
If the Gulf Coast's Hurricane Katrina and the Eastern Seaboard's Superstorm Sandy previewed how coastal cities can expect to fare as seas rise and storms strengthen, Phoenix — which also stands squarely in the cross hairs of climate change — pulls back the curtain on the future of inland empires. If you want a taste of the brutal new climate to come, look no further than the aptly named Valley of the Sun.
Here's the video response from Allhands and MacEachern on azcentral.com, the Republic's website, where they go after the Times but don't mention deBuys by name:
Allhands: The L.A. Times got on their high horse today, saying that Phoenix is one of the most unsustainable cities. We're heading for certain calamity environmentally. I'm Joanna Allhands, this is Doug MacEachern and we're with azcentral.com. So tell me, Doug, you think this is kind of crap.
MacEachern: Well, in certain respects I do. I have to take issue with the L.A. Times, of all publications, of all cities, to object to how people use water or abuse water rights.
Certainly L.A. is probably the most effective city, community, maybe in the world, at stealing other people's water and sucking other communities dry.
The gist of the piece had to do with the fact that global warming is making Phoenix a pretty hot place, it was to begin with and it's getting hotter. You could make a case, you could make a case that that is true.
But it's not as though Arizona hasn't been doing something about it. We've been land-banking water for many years now. We've got many years worth of water underground, and we're doing a lot more I would think than Los Angeles . . .
Allhands: Yeah, talk about the pot calling the kettle black, right?
MacEachern: Well here is the crazy part. Right now, at this very moment, Los Angeles politicians are concocting to steal about two-thirds of the Sacramento River to build, spend fourteen billion dollars of money that state taxpayers in California don't have to build two enormous pipelines to take water from the Sacramento River to where else, where does all water in California go, but to L.A.? All water I should say in and out of California goes to L.A. It's a bit of hypocrisy at work I think.
Allhands: Sounds like it.
The Republic's editorial also riffs on "Chinatown," the 1974 film starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunawaye, which evokes L.A.'s history of water politics from the 1930s and earlier.
So it's Phoenix snapping back at L.A. That's not all.
"The editorial is lame enough, but the video is truly cringe worthy," former L.A. Times veteran Kevin Roderick, founder, publisher and editor of the website LA Observed, said in a post early Monday March 18, "Phoenix Lamely Objects to LA Times Talking About Its Water."
Ok, Southern California residents, do you have an opinion here? Which city has the highest-profile track record when it comes to importing water - Los Angeles or Phoenix? Which city has the edge when it comes to dealing with a future that may include climate change and drought?
Editor's Note: A longer version of deBuys' piece appears on TomDispatch.