I was in Key West a couple weeks back for a couple nights. I had not been there for pleasure in many years. Actually I think the last time I took my Dad to the keys. Mallory Square was not a pier back then, and street artists came out of the woodwork back then. I didn’t see any at Mallory Square this time. A lot of new building has taken place, although Old Key West is still there. The light house is no longer being used, but the Hemmingway cats are still at Hemmingway’s house. So are the roosters.
But is made me think about the Hurricane a couple years ago, and water, or he lack of it. Hurricane damage is still visible, but many of the middle keys are being rebuild on stilts to address issues with storm surge and king tides. Water has come from the mainland for nearly 100 years. Flaglers’ old bridges are still there, a reminder to the Hurricane of 1935.
It also made me think about the challenges faced in the west. Fires, long-term droughts, a loss of snowpack, less rain, higher temperatures. In 2015 the Sierra Nevada snowpack dipped to 5% of this normal depth – a monster challenge for utilities that rely on snowpack for summer water supplies. Water diverted for agriculture (80%) or contaminated by mine tailings compromise water quality. Temperatures create challenges for fish, a economic staple for many mountain communities. Western water laws that have been in place since the 19th century create a challenge for maintaining supplies. And the west is dry for the most part and groundwater does not recharge like it can in the east. With more people moving west, I had to think about those old Key Westers.