[Source: Froma Harrop, Houston Chronicle and reprinted in the Arizona Republic] — There’s a burning concern in the American West — almost an obsession — that Democrats did not touch in their convention here. Nor will Republicans in St. Paul. It is the U.S. population explosion. The West is feeling the brunt of it, as flowing lava of housing developments and big-box crudscapes claim its cherished open spaces — and increasingly scarce water supplies. The U.S. Census Bureau now expects America’s population to top 400 million by 2039, far earlier than previously forecast. The 300-million mark was hit only two years ago, so if this prediction is correct, the headcount will have soared by 100 million people in 33 short years.
America’s fastest-growing region has been and will continue to be the Intermountain West. Its megalopolises — centered on Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City — are set to add 13 million people by 2040, according to a Brookings Institution study. This would be a doubling of their population. Hyper-growth still brings out happy talk in some circles. The Brookings report looks at the population forecasts for the urban corridor on the eastern face of the Rockies, spreading from Colorado into Wyoming, and enthuses, “Such projections point to a huge opportunity for the Front Range to improve on the current level of prosperity.” There are challenges, it says, but they can be met — and you can almost hear local hearts breaking — by new roads, bigger airports, more office parks.
And where oh where are they going to find water? Every county in Colorado was declared a federal drought disaster area in 2002, when the population stood at 4.5 million. It is expected to approach 8 million by 2035. As former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm notes, the region is so dry that you can still see the wagon wheel trails laid down in the 1840s. “This is an area that plans to add 13 million people?” Lamm said to me. “Crazy.” [Note: To read the full opinion piece, click here.]