My team and I reported for WGN on the dire water situation in the Southwest as part of our climate change series which aired back in November.
Having witnessed the abysmally low water levels on Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas and Lake Powell, upstream on the Colorado River firsthand –the water sources for 44-million across the Southwest and a small section of northern Mexico–ANY NEWS on the water situation there immediately catches my eye. We found water authorities in that region taking the issue VERY SERIOUSLY, having instituted major water conservation measures–like the complete ban on lawns in and around Las Vegas and a whole series of other measures.
The much publicized recent atmospheric river storms in the past two months have been interesting to follow. Lake Mead levels have come up 4 ft. since Dec 1–increasing from 1043 ft. at the start of December to 1047 ft. Feb 7. But the lake had dropped 170 ft. since 2000–so it’s going to take a lot more moisture—years of wet weather and a reduction in water usage which exceeds the Colorado River flow–to make a real dent in the situation. The Colorado River flow has been challenged by rising temps and historic drought which one wet season doesn’t come close to addressing.
A piece in the Nexus Climate Newsletter Tuesday (Feb 7, 2023) has caught my eye. It appears under the title: “Colorado River Dams Unlikely To Be Refilled”
The post goes on to read: “Drained by decades of overuse and climate-fueled drought, Lakes Mead and Powell, the massive lakes held back by the Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams, respectively, will likely never be refilled, experts warn. “The only reason they filled the first time is because there wasn’t demand for the water,” Bill Hasencamp, manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, told the LA Times. The past 23 years of climate-fueled megadrought across the West “are the best lessons we have right now, and they should scare the pants off of people,” Colorado State water and climate scientist Brad Udall said. To replenish the reservoirs, “you would need wet year after wet year, after wet year after wet year, after wet year. Even then, because the demand is so high, it still wouldn’t fill,” Hasencamp said. “We might even get a wet decade,” Udall added. “But, boy, the long-term warming and drying trend seems super clear to me… And a bet on anything other than that seems like water management malpractice, that we have got to plan for something that looks like a worst-case future.”
The Associated Press (AP) reported on January 29th on the difficult negotiations underway among states whose populations are dependent upon Colorado River water back on January 29th. They have a mountain to climb to address the situation there.
AND–Here’s quite an article from California Water Blog addressing the water situation facing the Colorado River reservoirs and residents of the Southwest: