Southwest Turns Anxious Eye to Shrinking Lake Mead


Dry weather drawing down Lake Mead
Excerpt from link:
In a dramatic reversal of fortune compared to last year, an unusually dry winter is causing the level of Lake Mead, Nevada, to decline, making water managers increasingly anxious about supplying water to the thirsty Southwest.

The latest U.S. Drought Outlook shows continued dry conditions in the Southwest are likely for the rest of the winter.

During the past three years, the level of Lake Mead has followed a boom and bust cycle, dropping to a record low in 2010 during an intense drought, then recovering during 2011 thanks to record mountain snowfall, and now dropping again in the midst of a dry winter.

According to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, water managers are forecasting the lake level to drop by about 13 feet due to the dry winter so far. As the newspaper reported:

"In December, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was predicting a roughly 11-foot rise in Lake Mead over the next year. Now the bureau expects the nation's largest man-made reservoir to shed about 13 feet by January 2013.

One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, which is enough water to supply two average valley homes for one year. At current consumption levels, the 2.45 million acre-foot reduction in Lake Mead's forecast since last month represents enough water to supply the entire Las Vegas Valley for a decade."

During the past 11 years, a particularly dry and warm climate has lingered in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Southern California, leading to reduced flow along the Colorado River. In fact, scientists have already shown that the stress on the water resources in the Southwest region is consistent with the effects of a warmer climate, and that increased emissions of heat-trapping gases are linked to recent changes in river flows and winter snow pack."
End of excerpt
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I have been writing about water scarcity here for a few years now and have reported about its effects on every continent which you can see by looking at all of the entries. There is no disputing that this is indeed a real crisis that demands our action now. This is a crisis of morals as well as physical scarcity combined with the effects of climate change, population, privatization and lack of political will. It is a crisis whose effects are preventable. Yes, preventable. In writing about this crisis I and so many others have issued warning after warning about the consequences of continuing to waste, pollute and take this life resource for granted.

However, in the U.S. water has been something that is treated with familiarity and apathy. A substance of need but not seen as finite. Something always there that can be dismissed. That is no longer the case. Much of the world from Darfur, to China, to Mexico, to Australia has already felt and is feeling the effects of a water stressed and scarce world. The Southwest United States is now no exception. Our perception of bodies of water are that they are so mighty that no amount of pressure upon them in any way can change them. Humans on the whole seem to have this perception that we can do no wrong. That regardless of our forcing upon the planet or the amount of waste and pollution we put forth there is no response from the ecosystems we are putting pressure upon. How totally arrogant that is.

Lake Mead is indeed the proof that defies this warped perception. As the article above explains, though it has been an up and down scenario what we are seeing now is the absolute culmination of waste, population, diversion (dams), lack of political will and the real effects of climate change taking hold. Anyone who has been paying attention to weather trends knows that the weather patterns of extremes we are now seeing in the US and in much of the world are in great part the result of human forcings upon our atmosphere. Anyone who knows of this area of the US knows of the population boom that has an insatiable demand for water that has now left the Colorado River a trickle into the Gulf of Mexico. And also as a sidenote, Mexico is now suffering through its worst drought in 70 years that is dessimating crops in over half the country. Water is a big deal.

So as we look at these drought maps we know climate change is real and happening and effecting the lives of real people and many other species now and we know we are wasting and polluting water even though we also know there is less to use and yet, what do we do about it? I have been writing about humanity reaching that crossroads of destruction and just what we would do when we reach it. I have always thought that once we knew we were on the path to our own destruction that self preservation mechanism would kick in and we would know what we had to do to preserve our species and do it. It is frightening to me that I am ambivalent about that happening now.

Will the great bodies of water of our planet be able to survive our greed, selfishness and arrogance? The water level of Lake Mead for Americans is our barometer of the answer.

Comments

Jim said…
Thanks for such an extensive & informative article on an under reported and over looked crisis in the making. Water levels have been dropping for years & new, lower acceptable levels were adopted until dangerously low levels were reached. Record demand and unpredictable rainfall are now pushing us beyond sustainable levels of use without replenishment.