California and the West’s water woes continue. California water allocations for 23-million residents only 5% of the amount requested as 2023 approaches reports the Associated Press.
The AP report comes just a day after the Washington Post ran a story entitled, “Officials fear ‘complete doomsday scenario’ for drought-stricken Colorado River.”
I reported just weeks ago, as part of our recent climate change series on WGN, on the dire water situation in Lake Mead outside Las Vegas.
Lake Mead is the country’s largest reservoir, created with the construction of the Hoover Dam across the Colorado River in the 1930s. But with drought having cut into the already overcommitted Colorado River water supply, Lake Mead has plunged to just 27% capacity–its lowest level since the reservoir was created behind Hoover Dam in the 1930s. Tens of millions depend on its water–including the city of Las Vegas and farmers in southern California who depend on the water to irrigate crops grown there which included one third of the country’s fresh vegetable and 2/3’s of the nuts and fruits grown in this country. Both Lakes Mead and Powell drive hydroelectric generators to produce electricity. But both are nearing the sort of low water levels which approach falling below the water intakes which send water through the generators. Were water levels to drop below intake levels, that would would curtail or completely end hydroelectric electric water generation.
Conservation efforts, including banning lawns in and around Las Vegas, have been aggressive. And a $1.2-billion set of 34 new pumps in Las Vegas–the largest single climate change adaption expenditure by any city anywhere in the world–have been installed near Lake Mead. But the situation concerning as building continues across the area.
Thursday’s Washington Post article deals with Lake Powell, another dam up the Colorado River from Lake Mead–which has, like Mead, dropped to one quarter its capacity—a historic low. The situation is so serious in Lake Powell, that the Post quotes Bob Martin, deputy power manager at Glen Canyon Dam, behind which Lake Powell sits—as describing the water situation there as a “complete doomsday scenario.”
Today, the Associated Press’ Kathleen Ronayne reports that California water agencies, serving the needs of 27-million, will get only 5% of the water they’ve requested as 2023 gets underway.
California has just concluded the driest three year period in its history and much of the state is assessed as being in extreme or exceptional drought. Much of the water it uses comes from the meltwater from winter snows in its mountains. While there’s a storm headed for California now–the AP quotes California state climatologist Michael Anderson against getting “too optimistic” about the precip it produces making a lasting impact on the historic drought in progress there, noting that two major storms last year in November and December –despite producing mammoth mountains snows and flooding rain at low elevations those two months—had minimal effect as the rest of the remainder of last winter winter return to a state of record dryness. Only a break in the drought would lead to larger water allocations in a state which has imposed wide-ranging water use restrictions in recent years.