Let’s use the cliche about canaries in mineshafts to illustrate the increasingly worrisome plight of the folks in the drought-stricken Southwest U.S. and the implications for us hereabouts.

The tiny birds were used to detect  explosive, toxic gases infiltrating mine shafts deep underground. These creatures died at the first whiff, warning miners to put on protective breathing masks and hustle to the surface and fresh air.

America’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, principal source of fresh water for sunbaked Las Vegas and downstream states, has fallen to its lowest level. This 77-year-old man-made lake is now at 39 percent of capacity and is our canary.

Its upstream companion reservoir, Lake Powell, also is under drought-caused pressures.

We already know the consequences of the worsening drought on California’s gazillion dollar agricultural industry, supplier of fruit and vegetables to consumers around the world. Higher prices already are showing up in grocery stores and even in farmers’ markets.

One of our editorial brethren here years ago developed what became an award-winning special news section about water issues. An expert in the field told the newspaper publisher at a dinner party that fights over finite water supplies would surpass petroleum scarity. Our guy was assigned to work up a special report.

On the back cover, he had a newsroom artist draw an illustration that showed an enormous pipe diverting Columbia River water down the Interstate 5 median to Southern California, watering lawns in Bel Air.

No one is laughing these days.

Does anyone hereabouts believe that we can safeguard our water in the face of overwhelming political pressure from people in Las Vegas and Southern California demanding our water to sprinkle their lawns and fill their pools?