We returned back to Boulder Beach campground after our long day hike to Hoover Dam.

I wanted to camp at Boulder Beach Campground because it hugs the Lake Mead shoreline.


Undoubtedly, it’s one of the most commercial camp grounds I have stayed at in a long time. I am used to backcountry camping, where the only luxury items are the ones you can fit into your pack. So the idea of having access to a flushing toilet, trash cans, picnic tables and a BBQ grill is rather upscale. With that said, $10 a night, it’s scenic, however still a little congested for my liking. Next door to the campground is an RV park.

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Some of the rigs here are full-time residents, while many RV’s are seasonal. Over the past 12 months, I have researched numerous ways of living differently and simpler. I have found a large community of people, young and old, who have decided to live and work on the road full time.

For mainstream, this may seem like an underground movement, but it really isn’t. Many generation X’ers are realizing they can live mobile while telecommuting to work. Generation X’ers are often referred to as the “lost” generation. If we are the LOST generation, then I also think we are the generation that FOUND ways to re-invent ourselves during harsh economic times. In the midst of a long-term recession and a disappearing middle class, we have become extremely resourceful and creative. Gone are the days of long term job security and stability with a company. I have found many of my fellow generation X’ers have been forced to diversify their professional resume, similar to their parent’s 401k plans.

Generation X’ers statistically are the most educated generation. 30% of us have a bachelor’s degree or higher. I feel we are the generation that was raised on change. Granted we were the first generation of latchkey kids. Daycare, divorce, and single parent homes became normalized during our childhood.


We are the generation that grew up with a rotary phone on the wall, introduced to the cordless phone, marveled over a cell phone, celebrated the pager,  not to mention our cheering of free internet phone calls.

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We were raised on records, yet we took great pride in our creation of mix tapes. We cheered for compact discs, and we embraced mp3’s. On Sundays you might even find us stalking garage sales looking to buy back our disregarded turntables from the late 80’s.


Personally, I feel our generation of change has enabled and permitted us to fast track our professional careers. Change was the norm growing up. We learned to adapt rather quickly, if we didn’t, we were left behind.

Baby Boomers have adapted too. The first generation to psycho analyze themselves, they are demanding to live more and wait less. Some retired boomers are finding part-time work in state and national parks that help offset costs while living mobile. Retired seniors are working as camp ground hosts. It pays minimally, however it does allow one to live rent and utility free. Artists are also finding that living on the road is a more affordable way to create, while not being committed to a mundane day job in order to pay rent. The dualism of an artist, creating and funding your passion until it becomes your full-time income, while juggling a soul less job to pay the bills in the meantime.

I have also met full timers trying to survive on disability. A disability check is an unlivable wage, especially if you are single. Living within simple means, means living creatively and becoming extremely resourceful. For many people disability is their soul income. Imagine living on 600 dollars a month? You may understand why living on the road full-time is a happier and cheaper way to live, as opposed to struggling to make a rent payment. I know many senior citizens held hostage by their social security check. After paying rent, and buying food, there are only pennies left.

Regardless of one’s income, I think we could all benefit from living a more resourceful life. Do we really need so much stuff? The great comedic sociologist George Carlin taught me this lesson many years ago.

Realistically, I see myself as a future tiny house builder. However recently I have been entertaining the idea of converting a bus into a home on wheels. I feel by mixing tiny house technology and my backpacker’s simplicity, I could create my dream all wheel drive home. Off course I would have a roof top deck, with an outdoor bedroom.

Imagine having a drivable open space? Something like this perhaps? Although,  I would have hard wood floors!


We returned back to camp to prepare and bunker down for a windy night. With the tent secured, Shadow took the time to tend to his toes.

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Poor Shads, he had never experienced so much friction from sand on his paws.


I was starting to wonder how unsettling the daily changes had been for him. For now, he lives day-to-day, and has no idea of where home is. Similar to his mama, he might be learning that home is really being at peace with yourself, embracing your surroundings, and being open to others around you.

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Throughout the night the winds howled. In Shadow’s mind the windy man had returned. The best defense: hide. Shadow opted for pulling the sleeping bag over his head in order to fend off the windy man. Under the covers he felt safe.


By morning the windy man had calmed down, yet his presence was still felt and heard.


Shadow was not impressed with the reality that we would be spending another day in the wind. I think the look says it all!


I decided a morning cuddle, stretch, and massage might turn Shadow’s mood around.


We were heading to Boulder City this morning, and later onto St. George, Utah. We had a long day ahead of us. I was hopeful that some dopamine and oxytocin production might change his attitude.





The Hoover Dam Historic Rail Road trail would be my first rails to trails hike since moving to America. The 7 mile round trip hike from Lake Mead to Hoover Dam was a planned pit stop on my way to Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona. Initially, my motivation to hike the railroad trail was to honor the many days Shadow and I spent train spotting in Fresno. During many of our urban walks we found ourselves negotiating railway crossings and hiking a long side the train tracks.

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Little did I know my rails to trail hike would quickly turn into a fact-finding mission about our seemingly un-policed use of the Colorado River and the South West’s drought.

I was also curious to learn more about Las Vegas’s dependency on Lake Mead. While many consider Las Vegas to be a city built on sin, you can add another to its list: water.


How does the driest city in America still use more water per capita than just about any other city in the country? Amazingly enough, Las Vegas charges less for water than many other communities across America. How does a city accommodate and offer hydration to a population that has tripled in two decades? Did city planners assume water would never be an issue in the desert? Ninety percent of Las Vegas’s water comes from Lake Mead. Deep beneath Lake Mead, a 23 foot tunnel boring machine is currently grinding through bedrock to ensure water continues flowing to the thirsty resort city.

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The 817 million dollar project is expected to be completed by October 2015.This six year project offers only a short-term water solution, while the long-term has yet to be addressed. Despite its wasteful reputation, Las Vegas reuses 93 percent of its water. The city paid homeowners $200 million to rip up their thirsty front lawns.Yes, that’s right, in Las Vegas we have to pay citizens to remind them they live in a dry desert and that green lawns are not indigenous to the area.


Are we unable as citizens to self police a resident oath?

Thy shall not have a front lawn in a desert community

Front lawns are now illegal in Las Vegas, yet golf courses are still commonplace. About 70 percent of the city’s nearly maxed-out water diversion from Lake Mead goes to landscaping. The real water hog is not people but grass. Almost three-quarters  of  Las Vegas water goes to public parks and golf courses.


Is it possible for Americans to understand that golf courses in desert environments are not sustainable?

Are we as a country, that resistant to change?

At times I feel our ignorance towards water policies is similar to our avoidance of the metric system. America remains the only industrialized nation that hasn’t made the metric system compulsory. Is it our stubbornness towards embracing change? Do we find comfort in familiarity? It seems if anyone should dare question our resistance to change, we start quoting our founding  fathers legacy to help support our lack of reasoning.


I contemplated the irony of Hoover Dam as Shadow and I headed out on our 7 mile hike. As a nation in the 1930’s, Hoover Dam came to symbolize what American industry and workers could accomplish, even in the midst of the Great Depression. Almost 90 years later, we are facing the Great Drought. I wonder what the West could accomplish if the entire nation understood the significance of the Colorado River, not to mention the severity of the drought.

Will our lack of response come to symbolize America’s failure to protect our most important resource?

Many researchers are expecting Lake Mead to be dry by 2021. Without water, where do we relocate an entire city to?

Should cities have a population cap based on resources?


As we passed through tunnel 1, I learned the railroad was built in 1931. It was specifically built to haul materials to construct Hoover Dam. The line ran from Boulder City to Hemenway Wash, then onto a concrete mixing plant on the rim of Black Canyon. Twenty four hours a day, 7 days a week, trains carried gravel, supplies, and machinery to the dam construction site.


During this hike I was hoping to get a better understanding of the harsh conditions workers and families endured during the dam construction. After the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, an avalanche of unemployed headed out West. All were competing for a limited number of Hoover Dam construction jobs.


In desperate need of work, men traveled cross-country to earn a living in a desolate, wild, undeveloped and extremely hot environment. Arriving with families, a tent community was born known as “Ragtowns”.


The living conditions were extreme. Imagine having no electricity, and working outside in 119 degree temperatures? Would you be willing to live in unsanitary conditions and drink untreated water as part of your job requirement? Imagine having a husband working at the construction site and your child gets sick. The Ragtown hospital only serviced dam workers, not their spouses or children. The nearest medical service for your child is Las Vegas.


As I entered tunnel two, I wondered if minorities were employed during the construction of Hoover Dam. Show me a country, a problem, an achievement, even a historical event; sociology was an active participant.

I fell in love with sociology during college. I was blessed to have passionate sociology professors. Dr Mitra Hoshiar, Dr James McKeever, not to mention the very wise Canadian, Dr James Crossen. Sociology helped me understand the sexism I experienced as young girl growing up in Australia. Sociology taught me how easy it is to create radical social and cultural norms. Within a decade these ideas sadly become facts cemented in the uneducated mind.

Sex, gender, orientation, socio-economic, age, etc, have all been justified reasoning to deny, withhold, discriminate and destroy the dreams and hopes of minority populations. Consistent with the time period, African-Americans and Native Americans suffered from corporate and community discrimination during the construction of Hoover Dam.

Many African-Americans came to Las Vegas and Black Canyon with hopes of finding dam building jobs. Sadly, most were turned away because of racism. Less than 30 African Americans were hired, and they were only given jobs that white workers found undesirable. The fortunate 30 also dealt with housing discrimination. African Americans were not allowed to live in Ragtown. Instead, they endured daily commutes from Las Vegas.

Disregarding the abundance of Native Americans in the region, only a few were hired during the construction of Hoover Dam. Native American workers were given the most dangerous jobs, which included “high scaling”, dangling on the canyon walls while clearing obstructions. Unlike African-Americans, Native Americans were permitted to live in Ragtown.

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As we exited tunnel two I noticed Shadow was looking a tad tired. He had over-exerted himself at Kelso dunes the day before. I think his paws were still adjusting to the sand and gravel. Collectively, we both agreed to some bench therapy. This gave Shads time to rest, and for me, more time to ponder about the stories of  families living under such extreme conditions.

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At tunnel three, we spotted our first humans on the trail. In beautiful 70 degree weather I wondered why more people were not hiking the tunnel trail. It’s the perfect walk back in time, with a big finale ending at Hoover Dam.

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I am not sure how heavily promoted the trail is, however if you are ever by Lake Mead, this is a must hike. And yes, it’s free!

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As we continued through tunnel four and five, I noticed we would be walking through the Bureau of Reclamation’s property. The Bureau of Reclamation permits hikers and bikers to enter this area, with the understanding that gate five closes at sunset for security purposes.


We had now technically entered the security zone. I wonder if an Australian Curious George with a pit boxer mix was considered a threat? I also wondered how many security threats actually look like the man depicted in the sign. How many people wear a trench coat while hiking this trail?


Passing through the gate we headed for the switch yards. Shadows ears were somewhat alarmed by the buzzing noises coming from the power lines. How do you identify a sound when you have no understanding of the source?


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As we prepared for our urban descent to the Dam parking garage I wondered if security would let a dog pay homage to Hoover Dam. Is it possible we walked the entire trail only to observe the Dam from the parking structure? Either way, I was at peace with the outcome. The focus was the walk, and time spent with Shadow and Min.

I wondered how many paying tourists actually get to the see this side of Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. Have we become so focused on the end result, that we have forgotten about the human sacrifices, the struggles, the suffering, and yet only a few men will ever bask in the glory of the achievement. Do we simply visit to get our proof picture in order to scratch off our bucket list, and leave with little understanding of what we have seen? I have seen this happen a lot at the Grand Canyon. People will drive 8 hours to visit the Rim; yet will only spend a few hours visiting Mother Nature’s butt crack. Most visitors could not tell you how deep the canyon is, yet they could describe the best places to get lunch and what to buy from the gift shop.


Heading down the walking ramp I realized we were finishing on the top floor of the visitor parking structure. It was then that I realized we would need an elevator ride down to the Dam. Undoubtedly Shadow would be denied entry. Smiling, I need to get him registered as a service dog. I could say he helps me with my fear of walking and man-made structures lol.

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So this is how close we got to Hoover Dam. Our lookout point was from the top floor of the parking garage.



Shadow was content with the outcome, as it meant he could steal an afternoon nap before our 3.5 mile walk back to the trail head.


By 3 pm, we left the parking structure and headed back towards gate five. We had to be through it before sunset, otherwise we would be spending the night on the trail. Not to mention, we would be seen as a security threat.

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A very sluggish  Shadow was not happy about the idea of another 3.5 mile walk. The past week had felt like a boot camp for him. Since leaving Fresno, he had struggled with car sickness, camped for the first time at Brite Lake, met the windy man, spent time in Hinkley, met the creator of Bottle Tree Ranch, spent the night with our John Muir trail angel friends, cowboy camped on top of Kelso Dunes, and now found himself hiking though rail road tunnels. Little did he know he was also facing another night in a tent, with high winds forecasted.

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Hiking back through the switch yards we saw our first bighorn sheep of the trip. Shadow was not sure what they were, not to mention why they were hanging out on a cliff.


It was after the bighorn sheep sighting, I realized how much I missed my 35 mm SLR shooting days. Granted, lugging an extra ten pounds worth of camera gear up a trail is not fun, however neither is missing out on photo opportunities because your 50 buck camera maxes out at 100 mm. As convenient as my point and shoot has been, I feel I am at the point where I need to find an ultra zoom camera. Add this to my list of things to research once I am situated in Vermilion Cliffs.


As we headed into the homestretch, I was wondering if Shadow realized we were camp site bound. We would be camping at Lake Mead, and the windy man (he is scared of the wind) would be visiting us at 40 miles an hour tonight. It is during these times I am blessed to have my Alps tent. This tent has protected us in monsoonal storms, snow, hail, and 60 mile an hour winds. I am hoping Shadow feels as protected in the tent as I do.


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I completed the Historic trail with a greater appreciation for the men, women, and children who endured the elements and lack of living conditions in order for a better life. In return for their hard yakka and sacrifices a modern marvel was constructed that has made the south-west livable today.With that said, I feel we have misused and abused the Colorado River. The Colorado River is a living testament of what happens when we ask too much of a limited resource.


“In America today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops.” Paul Brooks, The Pursuit of Wilderness.

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This is Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir. A drought stricken south west and a flow stunted Colorado River have shrunk Lake Mead to its lowest level in generations.

My heart broke upon seeing the white bath tub line around Lake Mead a few months ago. A two day visit to Lake Mead left me with more questions than answers. Hiking the Historic Rail Road trail to Hoover Dam I wanted to understand how our government leaders, corporations, private land owners, media outlets, education institutions and society has failed to adequately address the drought and the long term sustainability of agriculture in the south west.

From a legal stand point I feel water tends to be treated as a private or government asset. For this, we have and are paying a heavy price. I have always felt that if you want to understand a problem, grab a shovel and dig. Once you unearth the key factors and key players, you call them out. I think in the case of the southwest drought, especially in my former home state of California, we have been misled, misinformed and like the rest of the nation find ourselves somewhat disconnected regarding our relationship with natural resources. Resources necessary for survival!

Is it time to re-frame our relationship and understanding of water as a basic necessity?

Has commodifying and privatizing our natural resources contributed to our disconnection?

If we are less aware of our dependence on nature for our most essential needs, are we less inclined to get personally involved in protecting it?

The Nature Conservancy’s poll results showed an overwhelming majority of Americans do not know where they water comes from. Approximately 77% could not accurately identify the natural source of the water used in their homes.

Has America’s sophisticated public water system that transports water from rivers, lakes and aquifers right into our homes contributed to our intimate relationship with the faucet?

When did we form a brand loyalty to bottled water and dismiss our relationship with the original source?


Why did we divorce Mother Nature only to marry bottled water?


As a backpacker locating and securing water is a regular daily chore on trail. Over the years hiking has made me hyper-conscious of water.


I no longer see it as just a resource. It’s more a life or death necessity. Water is a gift and a privilege, yet somehow we seem to hold oil to a higher value.


How do we create an emotional and behavioral change regarding our relationship with water?

Do we start with our education system?

As a student I remember being schooled on the science of water, but the curriculum never addressed sustainability, water footprints and water related polices.

Would charging more for water instill a sense of value for a resource we seem to take for granted and feel entitled to?


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The 1450 mile Colorado is the southwest’s only major river. Supplying water to seven states — California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The Colorado provides water for 40 million people in hot, thirsty cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Phoenix.

Agriculture from California to Wyoming soaks up three-quarters of the Colorado’s water, which in turn produces 15% of the nation’s food. California produces more food than any other state, supplying a large portion of the nation’s milk, beef and produce. Considered to be one of the country’s driest states, California’s agricultural sector places enormous pressure on the entire south west’s water supply. The question beckons, is agriculture as we know it realistically sustainable in California?

Drought conditions in California have caused residents to drastically reduce their household water use. Like many, I was surprised to learn that only 4 percent of California’s water footprint stems from individual and personal use.

According to a 2012 Pacific Institute report, 93 percent of California’s water foot print goes to agriculture. While many concerned California citizens are shortening their showers, shutting off the faucet while brushing their teeth, and only washing clothes with a full load, the most drastic act of water conservation would be to look at our food choices. Yes, that’s right, our food choices and diet have a far greater impact on water conservation than we have been led to believe.

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Of the foods produced in the Golden State, the thirstiest by far are those that are derived from animals. Household water use is a trickle compared to the flood of water needed to produce meat, dairy, and eggs, especially when compared to plant foods. It takes less water to produce one year’s worth of food for a completely plant-based diet than it does to produce one month’s worth of food for a diet with animal products.

The Water Education Foundation calculates that every pound of California beef requires about 2,464 gallons of water to produce. Individuals could save more water by replacing a pound of beef with plant foods as opposed to limited showering for six months!

I feel we also need to re-consider soy and corn crops which feed the vast majority of livestock. Corn and soy are government subsidized crops. By 2013, 90% of all corn and soybeans planted in the United States were genetically engineered according to the United States Department Of Agriculture. Even though these crops may appear cost effective, they are considered to be exogenous. Exogenous crops have a deep thirst for water and therefore an additional drain on an already wasteful system of processing animal products.

Would American’s consider consuming less meat in order to conserve the south west’s water supply?

How would corporate factory farms respond to a smaller market and declines in profit?

Could solar and wind farms become the modern day factory farm?

From a health perspective America would be a healthier society by reducing our meat intake. As a nation we eat three times the international meat average and twice the recommended amount for good nutritional health.

Let’s not forget America has the highest obesity rates in the world. 2/3rd of Americans over the age of 20 are considered overweight, and 1/3 of Americans over the age of 20 are now considered obese.

Is it possible we have become a nation lacking in self care?

If so, how can we realistically care about our natural resources when we are unable to manage our own self care?

America – from the government, corporate, societal and individual level – has developed an unhealthy relationship with money, food, and self care. All three are directly related, and like with any abusive relationship we are in denial. We are refusing to admit the truth and the reality of  the current drought. Instead we justify, rationalize, and continue the blame shifting in order to maintain and continue the insanity.

How do we re-learn and re-establish healthy relationships with self and Mother Nature?

The lesson plan can be can be found with the indigenous. For indigenous groups, nature holds a sacred quality which appears absent from Western thinking. Nature is not merely a productive source, it is the center of the universe, and the core of a culture.

In theory, I think America understands that all living and non living things are intrinsically linked. Practically though, we tend to base our resource decisions on economic exchanges and profit sharing. Indigenous tribes understood the reality of scarcity, and based their resource decision on ecological exchanges with nature. Economy over ecology is the modern man’s way of thought, as opposed to Indigenous tribes who built their societies around institutions that encouraged healthy humans and natural resource stewardship.

In 2014, I feel we have failed as a society to maintain, sustain, and when needed, modify our behavior and business practices to live in harmony with natural resources. Our politicians and legislators, regardless of political affiliations, are walking contradictions when it comes to the drought. In February of this year President Obama paid a visit to Fresno, addressing California’s drought. He called for a shared sacrifice to help manage the state’s worst water shortage in decades. The contradiction: he then spent the rest of the weekend in the state’s top water hogs: desert valley golf courses.


Coachella Valley’s 124 golf courses consume 17 percent of all water there, and one quarter of the water is pumped out of the region’s at-risk groundwater aquifer, according to the Coachella Valley Water District. Statewide, roughly one percent of water goes to keep golf courses green. On average, each of the 124 Coachella Valley golf courses, uses nearly 1 million gallons a day due to the hot and dry climate, 3-4 times more water per day than the average American golf course.

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The desert’s lush fairways set against brown mountain backdrops have helped make the valley a golf mecca. Golf has driven the desert’s economy for over fifty years, attracting tourists and resort home sales.

Is it realistic to expect, maintain and sustain lush green golf courses in a dry drought stricken desert?

Again, is it economy over ecology?

Do we continue our current practice till it is no longer sustainable or profitable?

Can we permit ourselves to make adjustments, and get real about water based business in dry deserts?

Why are golf courses paying much less for water than residential customers?

Would creating an equal water pricing system help change our mentality from profit to preservation?

It seems not, drought conditions in the south-west  has not slowed down hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” permits. From Texas to California, drilling for oil and gas is using billions of gallons of water in the nation’s most drought stricken and prone areas.

California’s historic drought and shrinking water supplies are placing a spotlight on fracking and its thirst for fresh water. Fracking not only consumes millions of gallons of water to extract oil and gas from each well, but it’s also a water contaminator.


Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled nationwide since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found. Fracking those wells used 97 billion gallons of water, again profit over preservation.

In California, 96% of new oil and gas wells were located in areas where there was already fierce competition for water. This pattern holds for other regions caught up in the oil and gas rush. Most of the wells in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were also located in areas of high water stress.

Farming and fracking are two industries that are finding themselves fighting for water in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Although California frackers use less water on average than in other states, the trend is shifting, as oil companies make a play for Monterey Shale, the largest untapped oil resource in the country.

Oil drilling has steadily grown around Wasco over the past two decades, solidifying the area as one of California’s newest developments. Locally known as the “Rose” oil field, Wasco was once the rose growing capital of California. Industry experts believe as much as 13.7 billion barrels of Monterey Shale could be tapped from the Wasco area.

As of May 27th 2014, this is what California looks like. Look at the terminology; we are in a state of severe to exceptional drought. Summer is upon us, it will only get drier.


Human potential movement activist, Jean Houston once said, “The ecological crisis is doing what no other crisis in history has ever done, by challenging us to a realization of a new humanity.” Ms Houston is right, however, I don’t feel we are taking her words seriously.

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My visit to Lake Mead inspired me to de-myth some of my beliefs about water. Researching and reading about the south west’s drought once again reinforced the idea that if you flood the mainstream media with misinformation and myth’s, the focus will remain on individual use and not government, corporations and society’s.