August 17, 2008

McCain Watch #4: oops, you guys care about that?

I haven't been doing much McCain watching, what with being out of the country and everything, but no sooner do I get back than the man does another foolish thing. It's not a dumb policy idea, necessarily, but it's a politically expensive thing to say. McCain said he wanted to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact of 1922.

You're now looking at me like I'm speaking a different language, unless you follow western water policy. The compact is an agreement - based, stupidly, on best-case water level predictions - about how much water the various Colorado River states get each year. It gets split evenly between the Upper Basin states (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) and the Lower Basin states (Arizona, New Mexico, and California). You might spot one problem right away, which is that the Lower Basin states have about 44.8 million people, compared to 10.6 million in the Upper Basin states. The other huge problem is that the compact is based on water levels measured during a particularly wet period, and thus promises what it can't deliver. A new version the compact wouldn't be a terrible idea, though in my personal view some of the most foolishly-situated cities in the world are the ones that would want more water in order to grow (Phoenix, baby, I'm looking at you); thus, renegotiation is unlikely to get us a more ecologically sensible agreement.

So. Anyway. This piece of water policy, which allocates a seriously disproportionate amount of water to some sparsely-populated states, is probably more sacred than the Constitution in Colorado, and I'm including the Second Amendment here. Everyone in Colorado is pretty sure that renegotiation would reduce the amount of water they get, and giving up water is not something you want to do in the West. It's like the caucuses in Iowa, where no candidate will come down too hard on farm subsidies. Except McCain just said he was all for renegotiating the compact. ColoradoPols (which I found via Daily Kos) puts their headline up as "McCain just lost Colorado," and the Colorado politicians quoted say variations on "over my dead body." Variations like, "over my cold, dead political carcass" that aren't too different at all. Who know what this will mean come November - I'm not going to start crowing just yet - but it can't be that great for McCain.

What really gets me about this is that McCain is an Arizona politician, so he ought to know how people feel about water policy.

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