Disappearing Water

Missing Water in the West

The recession of the massive lake that straddles Nevada and Arizona is symbolic of a long-standing problem that just got a lot worse: The Colorado River’s record-low flows and the shrunken reservoirs of lakes Mead and Powell (pictured above) for the first time have triggered big cuts in the amount of water allowed to flow downstream.

via Feds Slash Colorado River Release to Historic Lows.

Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico depend on the Colorado River water to supply electricity to light the towns and run the air conditioners, and the water to green up the desert and grow crops.  And for the past 14 years, there is less water in the river than any time in the past 1,200 years.

Lake Powell, upstream on the river, is losing most of its water to drought.  Farther down the river, Lake Mead is being sucked dry by Las Vegas and agricultural use.  Over two year’s worth of water is “missing” – 16 million acre-feet.

The Colorado River Basin “is one of the most critical sources of water in the West,” Connor said in written comments submitted to a Senate subcommittee hearing in July. The river and its tributaries quench the thirsts of 40 million people and nearly 5.5 million acres of farmland, plus seven national wildlife refuges, four national recreation areas, and 11 national parks.

If it rains and snows in above normal amounts next year, the crisis might be delayed for a while.  Several years of above-average precipitation could help to refill the lakes.  But at this point, that appears unlikely.

By current river law, Lake Mead must deliver a certain amount of water downstream, but the lake is draining faster than its refilling. At some point, if the situation doesn’t improve, the fear is it may come to deciding this: Do we cut off water supply to Las Vegas to two million people because the reservoir has dropped too low? Or does someone else pay?

Because most of the water goes to agriculture, if the drought continues there will be hard choices.  Who will win?  Who will lose?  Will people still want to move there if water usage is restricted?  What new technologies will be developed to deal with this situation?  What are you doing to conserve our natural resources?

Data App: Texas Reservoir Levels | The Texas Tribune


Data App: Texas Reservoir Levels | The Texas Tribune

Data App: Texas Reservoir Levels | The Texas Tribune.

The prolonged drought in Texas has severely impacted our water reservoirs.  Many of those in west Texas are almost dry.  What will happen to the citizens who depend on them for water when they’re gone?  Click the link for an interactive map showing water levels in the lakes, with information updated daily.

Water In Texas

Water In Texas | Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

My Friend Andy Sansom, Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State, talks about water, public policy, and the future of Texas.

Mining, Desertification, and Camels – Cultural Changes in Mongolia

Old Ways Disappearing In The New Mongolia : NPR.

May 24, 2012

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation’s distinctive, nomadic identity.

This is part 4 of an NPR series on the dramatic changes coming to Mongolia.

Of course, the minerals are not used by Mongolians, but are mostly sold to China.  Is it worth losing a centuries-old culture for money?  Will the cash actually benefit the Mongolian people?  What role does desertification play in the choices that Mongolians make?

Running on Empty

via Draft Water Plan Says Texas “Will Not Have Enough” — Water Supply | The Texas Tribune.

“The primary message of the 2012 state water plan is a simple one,” the introduction states. “In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, and its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises.”

As population rises, demand will increase, although the increases are predicted to be slower than growth.  The lower predictions result from a decrease in demand from agriculture – we won’t be growing as many crops.

“In Texas, temperatures are likely to rise; however, future precipitation trends are difficult to project. If temperatures rise and precipitation decreases, as projected by climate models, Texas would begin seeing droughts in the middle of the 21st century that are as bad or worse as those in the beginning or middle of the 20th century.”

How will Texas citizens’ cope with the declining water supply?  More reservoirs, transferring water from one basin to another, and auditing water loss from public utilities (broken lines, etc.).

Of course, conservation should be the number one topic that results from this study – doing more with less.  Do you really need a green yard full of St. Augustine grass?


Clean Water

h/t to Flowingdata

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