Speed Reads


John Oliver explains the 'stupid' causes and dire consequences of the massive Western U.S. water crisis

The last several decades have seen a record-breaking drought in the American West, and "the Southwest is actually going through its driest 22-year period since 800 A.D.," John Oliver said on Last Week Tonight, marveling that some "dweeb" was keeping records that far back. "And this drought has had massive impact on the Colorado River in particular, which is a key source of water for most of the Southwestern states."

"Water level in Lake Mead have now fallen so much that, you may have seen, authorities have found human remains there twice in just one week!" Oliver said. "Which really freaked me out, until I remembered that I dumped that hitchhiker in Lake Mohave, not Lake Mead, so I'm good. And while you would like to think a situation this dire would cause people to be more mindful of our water usage," instead developers are planning at least surfing lagoon resorts in the California desert, a "monumentally stupid" move that, unfortunately, is right in line with our "history of denial and wishful thinking, especially around the Colorado River." 

"So tonight let's take a look at out water shortage: how it's been impacted by the choices that we've made and what we can do about it," Oliver said. His explanation included foundational "bulls--t math," "magic water," counterproductive incentives for agricultural water usage, and "using Craigslist to take a shower," among other horrors.

"And when it comes to responding to this crisis, places have gone in very different directions," Oliver said. "One of the best actors — and you are not going to believe this — is actually Las Vegas" Yes, even the Bellagio's fountain. "So Vegas could actually be something of a model for other places — when it comes to water conservation and literally nothing else!" he said. Utah, on the other hand, is the worst, and its solutions are unorthodox and unhelpful. "Wow, you know Utah is desperate when they ask 'all faiths' to join in a prayer" for rain, Oliver said. If that jab didn't alienate enough viewers, he ended the segment with a profane lecture from "God." Watch below.