Southwest US is bone dry requiring past due action

In an alarming article by Laura Korte of Politico called “The Southwest is bone dry. Now, a key water source is at risk” the severe depletion of its key water sources must be addressed in rather dramatic fashion. A link to the piece is below. A few select paragraphs follow:

SACRAMENTO — California and six other Western states have less than 60 days to pull off a seemingly impossible feat: Cut a multi-way deal to dramatically reduce their consumption of water from the dangerously low Colorado River...

A federal Bureau of Reclamation ultimatum last month, prompted by an extreme climate-change-induced drop in water levels at the nation’s largest reservoirs, reopens years of complicated agreements and political feuds among the communities whose livelihoods depend on the river. The deadline represents a crucial moment for the arid Southwest, which must now swiftly reckon with a problem that has been decades in the making.

Despite the oppressive dryness that has plagued the region for more than 20 years, California has, in large part, avoided reductions to its usage of the Colorado River. But now that reservoir levels have fallen drastically, the Golden State may be forced to use less water, a prospect that would only further strain a state that is already asking residents in some regions to stop watering lawns and take shorter showers.

Despite the oppressive dryness that has plagued the region for more than 20 years, California has, in large part, avoided reductions to its usage of the Colorado River. But now that reservoir levels have fallen drastically, the Golden State may be forced to use less water, a prospect that would only further strain a state that is already asking residents in some regions to stop watering lawns and take shorter showers.

California’s Imperial Valley, with its vast swaths of farmlands, uses more water than its neighboring water districts — and could be a target for much of the cuts. The state will also have to contend with water users in Arizona and Nevada, who face their own sets of limitations and internal pressures.

‘You can’t possibly overestimate how hard this is,’ said Felicia Marcus, a fellow at Stanford University’s Water in the West program and former chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board. ‘Each state has their own peculiar set of politics.

Over the past 20 years, as the effects of climate change have become more apparent, water authorities in their respective states have been able to hammer out agreements on moderate cutbacks. But it hasn’t been enough.

Supplies at Lake Mead and Lake Powell are dangerously low, holding just more than a quarter of their total capacities — and threatening the dams’ ability to generate electricity and provide water to its nearly 40 million users. At its highest level, in the 1980s, Lake Mead could have submerged the Empire State Building up to its top floor. Now, water levels have dropped by nearly 200 feet, or 20 stories, exposing a stark white “bathtub ring” around the rocky walls of the perimeter.

The new reality will force the region to shift away from a water source upon which it has relied for centuries, and, in some cases, make tough choices that are sure to ripple nationwide — such as whether to continue alfalfa farming for cattle feed or switch to more drought-hardy crops. The terms laid out in the coming weeks could offer a new blueprint for how America adapts to the increasingly-difficult realities of climate change.

Ignoring the disturbing projections for years has brought this crisis to an even dire level. The impact on multiple states has made it difficult to address, but also made the impact more pronounced. When Cape Town, South Africa about ran out of water two years ago, it impacted fewer people than this tragedy will. This is what is called a “burning platform” and in this case, there is no water to put it out.

11 thoughts on “Southwest US is bone dry requiring past due action

  1. Note to Readers: Farmers vs frackers vs homeowners vs water intensive businesses and utilities. All need to step up to resolve this matter with a changing mindset. East of the Mississippi, I read a report that Duke Energy put out that said on top of normal water evaporation from their reservoirs, climate change causes 11% more evaporation. This is important as the water is needed to convert to steam to turn the turbines to turn the generators to create electricity. There have been times when water levels are too low (like now) where Duke reduces the water flow to others to allow them to power the generators.

    We should remind ourselves that wind, solar, tidal, etc. energy need not have fresh water to create power. Natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy do. This is on top of other environmental concerns.

  2. Disastrous forecasts ahead and yet our once respected SCOTUS has overreached the boundaries and plan to interfere with the EPA. What’s happening to our country , our actions affect the very planet we live on.

    • Holly, think of the SCOTUS decision in the context of this and the previous post on Monsanto covering up its Round up poisoning. This is the main reason GOP leaders wanted a conservative court – limit liability. Keith

      • The Supreme Court, always respected as the highest court in the land, is nothing more than a Political branch of the Republican Party that is so radical it’s hard to wrap one’s head around. We have to do something about it before they are not making judgements but declaring law, that has already begun.

      • Holly, since my ideal is to have the finest and fairest in jurisprudence on our SCOTUS, it is a far drop to what we have now. We have two Justices that have been legitimately accused of sexual misconduct who need more vetting. In and of itself, that is a concern.


      • In addition they are guilty of lying to congress, an impeachable act, and of course there should be an investigation into Ginni and how much Thomas knew of his wife’s conspiracies and if he was involved. Will it happen? Probably not. The DOJ is a huge disappointment and I’m holding Biden responsible for his do nothing appointee. Because you feel sorry that a particular man was passed over for the Supreme Court doesn’t mean he’s suited to be the DOJ. Biden needs to address this.

      • Holly, the lying to Congress is poor form. It is amazing how some mask their warts. I think we should give Garland some time to see what he will do. I do think the people need their DOJ to charge the former president with seditious behavior. The insurrection does not happen with any other president. The insurrectionists would not have been in DC with any other president. And, any other president would have stopped this madness before it got too far. Donald J. Trump needs to be held to account for his actions. Keith

  3. Those of us who live in SoCal are watching with interest what the powers that be come up with in the multi-state deal. They have kicked the can down the road for so long that now I imagine the cuts will be draconian. And yet, they keep craming more housing in as if there are no shortages.

    • Janis, I hope they get their act together for your and others’ sakes. Developers tend to have a mindset of get it done and leave the problems for someone else. They are an impatient and thrifty lot. Keith

  4. Nevada has already outlawed grass; California and Arizona need to follow suit. Arizona is the most shocking. Until cutting water to farmers this year, the state has done next to nothing to conserve, and reportedly was willing to wait until they reached a level 3 crisis before acting. The should hit level 3 within 12 months.
    According to one study, the drought has a 75% chance of continuing through 2030 and will require major changes including relocation of people if that happens. With another 150-200 foot drop, Lake Mead turns into a “dead pool” with no water able to pass south of Hoover Dam.
    I was at the Lake a few days ago. It’s a shadow of its former self, with all but one of the boat ramps closed.

    • Thanks Vic. Farmers have noted that regions should grow crops that are endemic and grow wild there – wheat and alfalfa in the plains states, eg. Grass in the desert is not endemic and gold courses, in particular, are water guzzlers. I did see that opinion entertainer Tucker Carlson of Fox News is taking aim at wind turbines in Iowa, where over 40% of the electricity is provided by wind energy – sans water usage. Really? Keith

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