tagged w/ Colorado River
This is a well written account of where the Salton Sea now stands. It is a story of nitrogen overload, salinity overload, species in crisis, politics apathetic, economy in turmoil and the always relevant discussion on human waste and corporations unwilling to take responsibility for their mistakes and losses.
The Salton Sea did not ask to be born. It was spawned from greed and the diversion of the Colorado River over one hundred years ago of water it so desperately needs today as it no longer flows to the Gulf of Mexico. The Salton Sea stands as a monument to human hubris and our failed responsibility to the water and the species and ecosystems struggling to survive there.
Political solutions are as usual scant in size and slow to come as we now once again argue over the best course of action to save it or to even save it at all as we as usual take no responsibility for its current and future fate.
More at the link about the history of the Salton Sea and the story behind its current and future fate.This is a well written account of where the Salton Sea now stands. It is a story of... more
By Michelle Nijhuis (via OnEarth)
Actor Robert Redford has always loved the landscapes of the West, and his classic roles as the outlaw Sundance Kid and mountain man Jeremiah Johnson are now part of Western lore.
As executive producer and narrator of a new documentary, Watershed, Redford takes a close look at the greatest Western icon of all: the Colorado River, which flows almost 1,500 miles from its source in the Rocky Mountains to its delta at the Gulf of California. The river’s water, notoriously dammed and diverted in order to meet the region’s growing thirst, now rarely reaches the sea.
Watershed profiles several people who are trying to change the region’s relationship with the river, including a Los Angeles bicycle activist, a Navajo Nation councilwoman, a Colorado fly-fishing guide, and a restoration ecologist in Mexico. In short interludes, a crew of animators illustrates the fiendishly complex politics of the river, the mechanics of hydraulic fracturing, and other issues facing the Colorado Basin. The documentary, written and directed by Mark Decena, was co-produced by Redford’s son James, who also produced the HBO documentary Mann v. Ford and directed the new film The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia. (James is 50, but as you’ll see, his 76-year-old dad still calls him a “good kid.”)
The new film screens at the Sausalito Film Festival on May 13 and is available through the Whole Foods-sponsored Do Something Reel online film festival this month. Robert Redford spoke about it with OnEarth contributor and longtime Western journalist
Michelle Nijhuis. (Disclosure: Barry Nelson, a senior water policy analyst at NRDC, which publishes OnEarth, was an advisor on the film, and Redford is an NRDC trustee.)
Do you recall your first encounter with the Colorado River?
Well, I’ve had a lot of experiences on both the Colorado and the Green rivers — fishing for golden trout in the high mountains, filming Jeremiah Johnson, floating the Green River, and having a boat on Lake Powell for 30-odd years.
I grew up in Los Angeles, and after the Second World War, people flooded in there like it was gold-rush time. Suddenly, the place turned into concrete and smog and pollution. That made a huge impact on me.
I retreated into the Sierras and then into the deserts, the Mojave and so on. When that retreat began, I became aware of the value of the natural environment. So all those experiences — working in Yosemite, floating the rivers, raising my kids on the rivers — gave me a pretty good perspective on water in the West. I became acutely aware of the demand for water exceeding its supply.
What made you think that now is the time for a movie about the Colorado?
I realized that not enough people were paying attention to the issue. Water is a big subject — like air, you know. People take it for granted. For years, people thought water was just an endless resource to be used by anybody in any way. When I became aware that the Colorado River was no longer reaching its destination in the Gulf of California, that really hit me. I went down into that area and saw the cracked earth. I saw what was happening to what used to be marshland — that it was just drying up.
Then I became aware that cultures were suffering — that Native American cultures and Mexican cultures on the south end of the river were suffering. That hit me, too. And I looked at where the water was going — to dubious growth in Las Vegas. Las Vegas doesn’t have much water, and yet it’s growing in leaps and bounds.
The Colorado is an iconic symbol of America, of America at its best in terms of natural resources. Yet we’re destroying those natural resources. Not enough people know about that.
You’ve made many films with a political bent, but you’ve said that you’ve had to give up the idea that your films will make a difference. What do you hope to accomplish with Watershed?
I’ve given up the idea that I can really change anything, and I just do the best I can. It’s either that or do nothing, and we know that nothing doesn’t work.
Some of the films I’ve made in the past that I thought might make an impact, I don’t think did. I don’t think The Candidate [a satire of campaign politics] changed anything. I think politics are worse than they ever were. And Quiz Show [based on a 1950s Hollywood quiz-show scandal] was about the corruption in the entertainment business. Well, that’s as bad as it ever was.
In other words, you don’t want to deceive yourself. You just do what you can do the best you can, and you just keep doing it because that’s all you can do.
What do you hope that viewers will remember the most from Watershed?
I hope they’ll remember the people. The mayor of Rifle, Colorado — I just love that guy. He’s so simple and plain and gentle. Then you have that crazy kid in Los Angeles, that guy with the bike. He’s so wild and crazy and smart and committed. You look at a guy like that and you say, “Boy, there’s a kid that could have gone the other way, but look at what he’s doing.” He’s converting all his energy into doing something — because he loves the city, and wants to play a role in it.
Maybe these people can set an example. I hope viewers will realize the value of the river through the stories of the people who live with it.
You’ve lived in the region for decades. Did you learn anything new about the Colorado River while you were making the film?
The one thing that’s always been very impressive to me is its history, how it got that way. I went to college for a year, to the University of Colorado at Boulder, and then I was kicked out. One of the reasons I was asked to leave was that I was having too much fun — I spent too much time in the mountains, and I didn’t spend enough time studying. But two courses really got my attention, and they were geomorphology and anthropology.
I got so taken with geology, just fascinated with how the earth got to be the way it is. When I would drive from Boulder back to Los Angeles, I was thrilled by the idea that wherever I looked, I could understand how it got that way, whether it was a mountain or a river or a valley. I think that’s probably where it all started for me, driving through that country and looking at what I had learned.
Then when I studied anthropology, I learned how people connected with the land in ancient times, and how we evolved to the point where people and geology came together and produced what we have today. I wanted to tell that story.
More at linkBy Michelle Nijhuis (via OnEarth)
Actor Robert Redford has always loved the... more
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. Adding to the region's water challenges is the fact that cities that draw water from Lake Mead, such as Las Vegas, have grown in recent years and are further taxing the water supply.
More at the linkIn a dramatic reversal of fortune compared to last year, an unusually dry winter is... more
Consider it a taste of the future: the fire, smoke, drought, dust, and heat that have made life unpleasant, if not dangerous, from Louisiana to Los Angeles. New records tell the tale: biggest wildfire ever recorded in Arizona (538,049 acres), biggest fire ever in New Mexico (156,600 acres), all-time worst fire year in Texas history (3,697,000 acres).
The fires were a function of drought. As of summer’s end, 2011 was the driest year in 117 years of record keeping for New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana, and the second driest for Oklahoma. Those fires also resulted from record heat. It was the hottest summer ever recorded for New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, as well as the hottest August ever for those states, plus Arizona and Colorado.
Virtually every city in the region experienced unprecedented temperatures, with Phoenix, as usual, leading the march toward unlivability. This past summer, the so-called Valley of the Sun set a new record of 33 days when the mercury reached a shoe-melting 110º F or higher. (The previous record of 32 days was set in 2007.)
And here’s the bad news in a nutshell: if you live in the Southwest or just about anywhere in the American West, you or your children and grandchildren could soon enough be facing the Age of Thirst, which may also prove to be the greatest water crisis in the history of civilization. No kidding.
If that gets you down, here’s a little cheer-up note: the end is not yet nigh.
In fact, this year the weather elsewhere rode to the rescue, and the news for the Southwest was good where it really mattered. Since January, the biggest reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead, backed up by the Hoover Dam and just 30 miles southwest of Las Vegas, has risen almost 40 feet. That lake is crucial when it comes to watering lawns or taking showers from Arizona to California. And the near 40-foot surge of extra water offered a significant upward nudge to the Southwest’s water reserves.
The Colorado River, which the reservoir impounds, supplies all or part of the water on which nearly 30 million people depend, most of them living downstream of Lake Mead in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Tijuana, and scores of smaller communities in the United States and Mexico.
Back in 1999, the lake was full. Patricia Mulroy, who heads the water utility serving Las Vegas, rues the optimism of those bygone days. “We had a fifty-year, reliable water supply,” she says. “By 2002, we had no water supply. We were out. We were done. I swore to myself we’d never do that again.”
In 2000, the lake began to fall -- like a boulder off a cliff, bouncing a couple of times on the way down. Its water level dropped a staggering 130 feet, stopping less than seven feet above the stage that would have triggered reductions in downstream deliveries. Then -- and here’s the good news, just in case you were wondering -- last winter, it snowed prodigiously up north in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
The spring and summer run-off from those snowpacks brought enormous relief. It renewed what we in the Southwest like to call the Hydro-Illogic cycle: when drought comes, everybody wrings their hands and promises to institute needed reform, if only it would rain a little. Then the drought breaks or eases and we all return to business as usual, until the cycle comes around to drought again.
So don’t be fooled. One day, perhaps soon, Lake Mead will renew its downward plunge. That’s a certainty, the experts tell us. And here’s the thing: the next time, a sudden rescue by heavy snows in the northern Rockies might not come. If the snowpacks of the future are merely ordinary, let alone puny, then you’ll know that we really are entering a new age.
And climate change will be a major reason, but we’ll have done a good job of aiding and abetting it. The states of the so-called Lower Basin of the Colorado River -- California, Arizona, and Nevada -- have been living beyond their water means for years. Any departure from recent decades of hydrological abundance, even a return to long-term average flows in the Colorado River, would produce a painful reckoning for the Lower Basin states. And even worse is surely on the way.
Just think of the coming Age of Thirst in the American Southwest and West as a three-act tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions.
We have already experienced close to 1º C of that increase, which accounts, at least in part, for last summer’s colossal fires and record-setting temperatures -- and it’s now clear that we’re just getting started.
The simple rule of thumb for climate change is that wet places will get wetter and dry places drier. One reason the dry places will dry is that higher temperatures mean more evaporation. In other words, there will be ever less water in the rivers that keep the region’s cities (and much else) alive. Modeling already suggests that by mid-century surface stream-flow will decline by 10% to 30%.
Independent studies at the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in California and the University of Colorado evaluated the viability of Lake Mead and eventually arrived at similar conclusions: after about 2026, the risk of “failure” at Lake Mead, according to a member of the Colorado group, “just skyrockets.” Failure in this context would mean water levels lower than the dam’s lowest intake, no water heading downstream, and the lake becoming a “dead pool.”
more at the linkConsider it a taste of the future: the fire, smoke, drought, dust, and heat that have... more
Photographer Peter McBride traveled along the Colorado River from its source high in the Rocky Mountains to its historic mouth at the Sea of Cortez. In this Yale Environment 360 video, he follows the natural course of the Colorado by raft, on foot, and overhead in a small plane, telling the story of a river whose water is siphoned off at every turn, leaving it high and dry 80 miles from the sea.
In the video, McBride, a Colorado native, documents how increasing water demands have transformed the river that is the lifeblood for an arid Southwest.Photographer Peter McBride traveled along the Colorado River from its source high in... more
The worst drought in the 105-year historical record of the Colorado River has opened a new era of water scarcity that is prompting state and federal water managers to evaluate never before considered options for increasing water supply and reducing demand.
The new ideas for managing the seven-state river basin, which supplies water to 30 million residents and thousands of farms, have attracted increasing attention from agricultural users and other big water interests, particularly in the upper basin states that counted on receiving more water under the region’s near-century-old water use agreement.
In Las Vegas last month, at the annual meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association—the only organization bringing together stakeholders from each of the seven basin states—opponents and supporters made their views known during a speech by Doug Kenney, the director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Kenney was invited to Caesar’s Palace to share the first-year findings from his study on water governance in the Colorado River Basin. His message: in a new era of water scarcity along the river—where supply and demand lines have already crossed—traditional water management practices will need to be fundamentally changed.
New options for managing the Colorado include establishing provisions for year-to-year agreements with states and farmers to avoid shortages. They also include improvements in the efficiency of river operations, or by river augmentation, which means adding new supplies from a slew of sources—some viable, some expensive, and some fanciful: desalination, river diversions, and weather modification, respectively.
“I thought it was time for someone to stand up at that meeting and start talking about the reality.”
Kenney’s governance study is just one of several such assessments—carried out by academics and federal agencies, as well as state and regional water management authorities—suggesting the need for new ways to manage water flows. The studies are providing a new legal and scientific foundation for defining existing water rights within states, clarifying laws and regulations about how shortages on the river would be handled, and evaluating options for increasing the basin’s water supply and reducing demand.
Kenney argued that the states of the upper basin—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming—are the most vulnerable if future flows are as low as predicted because the river’s legal structure gives priority to Mexico and the lower basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada.
“I thought it was time for someone to stand up at that meeting and start talking about the reality,” Kenney told Circle of Blue. “That there’s just not any water left on that river.”
While there were no catcalls or rotten fruit, Kenney admits that some representatives from the upper basin states were not pleased to hear that water promised to them nearly a century ago under the Colorado River Compact would probably not be available in the coming decades.
cont.The worst drought in the 105-year historical record of the Colorado River has opened a... more
Jonathan Waterman, author of the book, "Running Dry: A Journey from Source to Sea Down the Colorado River." was recently a guest on Circle Of Blue's Radio Series Five in 15. He speaks of the reality of drought in the Southwest and the current state of the Colorado River that no longer flows to the sea and its economic and cultural impacts.
Our guest today is Jonathan Waterman, author of “Running Dry: A Journey from Source to Sea Down the Colorado River.” Since the 1993 paddle down the Gulf of California, starting at the mouth of the Colorado, Waterman has been fascinated by the river and alarmed by the demands being placed on its waters. He returned to the American Southwest’s iconic river in 2008. He lived on its waters for five months, paddled its length and then walked when the river ran out.
It was in 1998 when the Colorado stopped flowing to the sea as it had done for millions of years before. It had been sucked dry miles short of the Gulf by a growing demand for drinking water in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson, and for agricultural use by farmers up and down its 1,500-mile length. Waterman talked with us about his trip, the many threats facing the Colorado and ways that he feels we can help.
So, Jon, you paddled almost 1,500 miles down the Colorado River from the headwaters near the Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s quite an adventure. Tell us, why did you do it?
Jonathan Waterman: There are a few answers. I took a long journey in 1993 down the Sea of Cortez and wrote a book about it called “Kayaking the Vermillion Sea,” and the journey essentially started at the delta, a little south of the Colorado River delta, in the muds that the Colorado River had washed down from essentially where we live, where you live, where I live. I was intrigued, even way back then more than 15 years ago, about the river. And then as over the years I’d heard that it was no longer reaching the sea, it had been on my radar for a long time.
Also, in a more general way, I’ve been doing long journeys for 30 years now, and I’ve had the luxury, maybe the tenacity, to engage myself in landscapes and get to know a place by traveling and by sleeping out, and covering broad sweeps of the land and ocean coastline, and rivers. I wanted to do that same kind of thing with the Colorado River — get to know it by living on the river for months at a time. But my trips have always been to far, remote places. I wanted to do something close to home that impacts the future not only of myself and my children, but of all the 30 million people who depend upon the river. I wanted to give an up-close and personal view.
So, help us get to know more about the river. Tell us about your discoveries through your quest and some of your concerns.
Jonathan Waterman: That’s a wide net, so since you mentioned Las Vegas, I’ll start with Las Vegas. That’s certainly one of the places that gets a lot of the attention when it comes to the Colorado River, primarily because Vegas is right on the river, and also frankly because Vegas is known as the city of consumption, or Sin City. But, in fact, Las Vegas is in the future now. They have already kicked the future because they’re such a big city growing so rapidly, and 90 percent of their water comes from the river through Lake Mead. That’s a great place to go to understand how other municipalities might begin to get their arms around the issues of diminishing supply and droughts, and over-allocation.
It’s not the only place to go, and farming, of course, is the central drain of the Colorado River. Seventy-eight percent of the water goes to agriculture in the Colorado River Basin. It’s a great place to begin because if farmers could implement more sustainable, farsighted — not even farsighted, but relatively technology-wise — simple drip irrigation, it would have immense savings. Those savings, of course, could be realized by municipalities that use a lot less of the water, but as the population continues to increase, places like LA, Vegas, Denver, even Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson, Salt Lake, all of those places depend to a greater or lesser extent on Colorado River water. If they all began sustainable xeriscaping in replacing front lawns, the savings there, too, would be immense.
I’m really concerned that the public at large…even the 30 million people who depend upon the river don’t understand the issues of the river. There’s a lot of talk, even most recently from former Secretary of the Interior, that there is no scarcity of water in the Southwest. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re in times of drought. The drought continues, even with big snow years the last three years, where I live. It doesn’t matter. The warming temperatures cause tremendous evaporation. We have a coming train wreck on our hands.
Tell us, what did you hear from the farmers and the Native Americans who live near and depend on the river? What changes have they seen over the years?
Jonathan Waterman: For instance, I spent time with a man who grew up in the river delta, Colin Soto. He’s a Cocopah Native American person, and as a right of passage as a boy, he swam the river. Now in his early 70s, there is no more river on his land, on the Cocopah Reservation, which is on the border of Arizona and New Mexico. It’s a great tragedy. It’s not only an environmental tragedy, but to these people, to many of the people who depend upon the river, it’s a cultural issue, as well as an environmental issue.
I did speak to some farmers along the way. Fortunately, the man whom I spent the most time with was in one of the biggest irrigation districts on the entire river, called Imperial Valley, in California, and he had converted 7 percent of his fields to drip irrigation. And the savings were enormous. Despite the initial costs, he is implementing more and more drip irrigation on his fields. This is the future, and this is the kind of reform that we need to see, but it’s going to take some leadership. Not many of our leaders have such conflicting interests that they can’t seem to focus on the river as a whole, the river as a living being that flows not just for the sake of Denver or Phoenix, but it flows to reach the sea.
cont.Jonathan Waterman, author of the book, "Running Dry: A Journey from Source to Sea... more
From its source high in the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado River channels water south nearly 1,500 miles, over falls, through deserts and canyons, to the lush wetlands of a vast delta in Mexico and into the Gulf of California.
That is, it did so for six million years.
Then, beginning in the 1920s, Western states began divvying up the Colorado’s water, building dams and diverting the flow hundreds of miles, to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and other fast-growing cities. The river now serves 30 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico, with 70 percent or more of its water siphoned off to irrigate 3.5 million acres of cropland.
The damming and diverting of the Colorado, the nation’s seventh-longest river, may be seen by some as a triumph of engineering and by others as a crime against nature, but there are ominous new twists. The river has been running especially low for the past decade, as drought has gripped the Southwest. It still tumbles through the Grand Canyon, much to the delight of rafters and other visitors. And boaters still roar across Nevada and Arizona’s Lake Mead, 110 miles long and formed by the Hoover Dam. But at the lake’s edge they can see lines in the rock walls, distinct as bathtub rings, showing the water level far lower than it once was—some 130 feet lower, as it happens, since 2000. Water resource officials say some of the reservoirs fed by the river will never be full again.
Climate change will likely decrease the river’s flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 years, says geoscientist Brad Udall, director of the University of Colorado Western Water Assessment. Less precipitation in the Rocky Mountains will yield less water to begin with. Droughts will last longer. Higher overall air temperatures will mean more water lost to evaporation. “You’re going to see earlier runoff and lower flows later in the year,” so water will be more scarce during the growing season, says Udall.
Other regions—the Mediterranean, southern Africa, parts of South America and Asia—also face fresh-water shortages, perhaps outright crises. In the Andes Mountains of South America, glaciers are melting so quickly that millions of people in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador are expected to lose a major source of fresh water by 2020. In southwestern Australia, which is in the midst of its worst drought in 750 years, fresh water is so scarce the city of Perth is building plants to remove the salt from seawater. More than one billion people around the world now live in water-stressed regions, according to the World Health Organization, a number that is expected to double by 2050, when an estimated nine billion people will inhabit the planet.
“There’s not enough fresh water to handle nine billion people at current consumption levels,” says Patricia Mulroy, a board member of the Colorado-based Water Research Foundation, which promotes the development of safe, affordable drinking water worldwide. People need a “fundamental, cultural attitude change about water supply in the Southwest,” she adds. “It’s not abundant, it’s not reliable, it’s not going to always be there.”
Mulroy is also general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which serves two million people in greater Las Vegas. The city is one of the largest in the Colorado River basin, but its share of the river is relatively small; when officials allocated the Colorado’s water to different states in 1922, no one expected so many people to be living in the Nevada desert. So Nevadans have gotten used to coping with limitations. They can’t water their yards or wash their cars whenever they like; communities follow strict watering schedules. The water authority pays homeowners to replace water-gulping lawns with rocks and drought-tolerant plants. Golf courses adhere to water restrictions. Almost all wastewater is reused or returned to the Colorado River.From its source high in the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado River channels water south... more
What happens if Lake Mead drops too low to generate electricity at Hoover Dam?
The shutdown of one of the largest electrical power plants in the Southwest will begin with air bubbles on a turbine inside the Hoover Dam. The bubbles form when low water levels in Lake Mead, the reservoir behind the dam, create pressure differentials in the water flowing into the generators. As they move from areas of low pressure to high, the bubbles collapse and explode, scouring the turbine blades. The generating unit will then start to buck and vibrate, the blades will become pocked and pitted, and the whole thing will eventually need to be shuttered, eliminating the power source that supplies 29 million people in the Southwest with a portion of their electricity.
For the last eight weeks, Choke Point: U.S. has explored vivid examples of the collision between rising energy demand and diminishing reserves of fresh water. What clearly appears to be an unavoidable day of reckoning at Hoover Dam is, arguably, the most striking example in the country of the confrontation between the two resources.
A prolonged dry spell, lasting over a decade, is steadily draining the water sources that power Hoover Dam’s giant turbines and has left Lake Mead at only 41 percent full. The lake has dropped 130 feet since 1999 and is now at 1,084 feet, depths not seen since 1956. The Bureau of Reclamation projects it will shrink another two feet by next month, reaching its lowest elevation since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s.
Power generation has declined in tandem. The falling water levels have prompted federal managers to reduce the Hoover Dam’s hydroelectric generating capacity by 33 percent. If drought conditions continue in the Colorado River Basin; if climate change brings the hydrologic strictures predicted; and if water allocations to the basin states aren’t reduced in line with anticipated lower flows, what was once (and for some, still is) unthinkable might happen. There won’t be enough water to power the dam’s generators, thus shutting down the plant and creating energy uncertainty for millions of people in the region.
It is an outcome that would destabilize energy markets in the Southwest, send retail customers that serve millions of residents to the spot market to buy power at up to five times the cost and dissolve the illusion that rivers are infinitely malleable to our own purposes.
A dam’s electrical output is partly a function of the height of its reservoir. More water equals more pressure, which equals more energy. The total capacity at Hoover is now 1,617 megawatts—a 20 percent decrease from its designed capacity of 2,080 megawatts. Every foot of elevation loss reduces the power potential by 5.7 megawatts.
Experts don’t know what will happen if the water drops below 1,050 feet, which represents the bottom of the efficiency curve for the current turbines, where more water is needed to produce an equivalent amount of electricity. Such low depths increase the rough zones for the turbines—the generating range in which vibration and cavitation threaten to damage the unit. At extremely low lake levels, like the ones Mead is fast approaching, those rough zones — which usually occur in a narrow production band at medium capacity — could expand to fill the entire generating range, making the turbines vulnerable at any speed. But this unprecedented scenario would be a mystery even to the staff of the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam.
“Honestly, we’ve never been that low, so we don’t know what it will look like,” said Hoover Facility Manager Pete DiDonato. “A lot depends on what the rough zones look like as the lake drops. We’re getting into uncharted territory.”
cont.What happens if Lake Mead drops too low to generate electricity at Hoover Dam?... more
"I also found that Mexican Governmental corruption and corporate greed fed with American dollars were also driving forces behind the destruction of the environment."
Watch this journalistic photo essay.
" The Colorado River used to pulse 1,450 miles from the Rocky Mountains to the Sea of Cortez. But today this lush vein of plenty evaporates into thin air before crossing the Mexican border. Photographer Brain L. Frank roamed northern Mexico and the American Southwest, documenting the human toll of the river's disappearance."
Join the Organic Revolution:
http://current.com/groups/organicgreen/"I also found that Mexican Governmental corruption and corporate greed fed with... more
St. Thomas which was a city covered by Lake Mead due to Hoover Dam construction is now exposed due to recession of water levels. To some that may seem like justice because of what was done to St. Thomas originally because of the dam construction, but now this lake which is one of the largest has millions of people dependent on it for water. So now, those in this area who once lost all due to the water coming in may well see that again because of the opposite effect. This is a stark example of what population increases and climate change combined with waste can lead to. It should be a lesson to us all.
All reservoirs along the Colorado River might dry up by mid-century as the West warms, a new study finds. The probability of such a severe shortage by then runs as high as one-in-two, unless current water-management practices change, the researchers report.
The study's coauthors looked at the effects of a range of reductions in Colorado River stream flow on future reservoir levels and at the implications of different management strategies.
Even under the harshest drying caused by climate change, the large storage capacity of reservoirs on the Colorado might help sustain water supply for a few decades. However, new water management approaches are critical to minimize the chances of fully depleting reservoir storage by mid-century.
"This study, along with others that predict future flow reductions in the Colorado River Basin, suggests that water managers should begin to re-think current water management practices during the next few years, before the more serious effects of climate change appear," says lead study author Balaji Rajagopalan of the University of Colorado in Boulder (CU-Boulder).
The findings by Rajagopalan and his colleagues have been accepted by the journal Water Resources Research, published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
The Colorado River system is enduring its 10th year of a drought. Fortunately, the river system entered the drought in 2000, with the reservoirs at approximately 95 percent of capacity. The reservoir system is currently at 59 percent of capacity, about the same as this time last year, says Rajagopalan. Roughly 30 million people depend on the Colorado River for drinking and irrigation water.
The research team examined the future vulnerability of the system to water supply variability coupled with projected changes in water demand. They found that through 2026, the risk of fully depleting reservoir storage in any given year remains below 10 percent under any scenario of climate fluctuation or management alternative. During this period, the reservoir storage could even recover from its current low level, according to the researchers.
But if climate change results in a 10 percent reduction in the Colorado River's average stream flow as some recent studies predict, the chances of fully depleting reservoir storage will exceed 25 percent by 2057, according to the study. If climate change results in a 20 percent flow reduction, the chances of fully depleting reservoir storage will exceed one in two by 2057, Rajagopalan says.
"On average, drying caused by climate change would increase the risk of fully depleting reservoir storage by nearly ten times more than the risk we expect from population pressures alone," Rajagopalan says.
"By mid-century this risk translates into a 50 percent chance in any given year of empty reservoirs, an enormous risk and huge water management challenge," he says.
The river hosts more than a dozen dams along its 2,330-kilometer (1,450-mile) journey from Colorado's Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California.
end of excerpt.St. Thomas which was a city covered by Lake Mead due to Hoover Dam construction is now... more
The combination of a changing climate and a strong demand for the lake’s remaining water has resulted in 100 foot drop since 2000. While that’s just 10 percent under the lake’s high water mark in 1983, Lake Mead is like a martini glass—wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. That 10 percent dip represents a loss of half Lake Mead’s water supply in nine years, from 96 percent capacity to 43 percent.
Anyone who’s gone on a diet knows this simple equation: if you burn fewer calories than you eat, you’ll gain weight. But like a cheating dieter in Superman’s Bizarro world, the Western United States has been sucking more water out of Lake Mead than the dwindling Colorado River can provide to replace it. When output is greater than input, the reservoir shrinks.
And it continues to shrink. Lake Mead’s water level fell 14 feet last year, and the Bureau of Reclamation has projected the level will drop 14 more feet this summer. That will bring it perilously close to 1,075 feet, the point at which the federal government can step in and declare a drought condition, forcing a reduction of 400,000 acre-feet drawn from Lake Mead per year. A typical Las Vegas home uses a half acre-foot of water per year, so such a reduction would be equal toturning the tap off for 800,000 households.
In 2008, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography issued a paper titled “When will Lake Mead go dry?” which set the odds of Lake Mead drying up by 2021 at 50-50. No more water, no more electricity, no more pumping power.
“Today, we are at or beyond the sustainable limit of the Colorado system,” concluded the paper’s authors. “The alternative to reasoned solutions to this coming water crisis is a major societal and economic disruption in the desert southwest; something that will affect each of us living in the region.”
One of the more radical proposals involves pumping water from the eastern United States (where many regions are suffering the consequences of flooded rivers) over the Rockies to the West. In a Las Vegas Sun interview on May 1, Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said, “We’ve taken water from the West now for a hundred years, maybe it’s time to start taking water from the East, rather than from the West.” Another speculative proposal lies beyond the shores of California, where there’s an ocean of water available for desalinization.
End of excerpt from article:
http://www.good.is/post/lake-mead-is-drying-up/?Gt1=48001The combination of a changing climate and a strong demand for the lake’s... more
Sad to see the term "once mighty" Colorado River. However, if there is one good thing we can say about this recesssion-depression, is that it may slow down growth in this area to allow the freshwater resources to be preserved. How many golf courses do people need anyway?Sad to see the term "once mighty" Colorado River. However, if there is one... more
What would you do if your well ran dry? Would you care about water then? For the millions who depend upon the Colorado River and Lake Mead that day may come sooner than they think if they do not start managing water and conserving it better. The Colorado River already no longer runs to the Gulf of Mexico. Will it take Lake Mead running dry to finally understand how important water is to our lives and what climate change combined with our wastefulness are doing to our planet?What would you do if your well ran dry? Would you care about water then? For the... more
The south-western US is suffering its eighth consecutive year of drought. There are concerns that the Colorado River, which has sustained life in the area for thousands of years, can no longer meet the needs of the tens of millions of people living in major cities such as Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
We cannot continue to waste water as we are doing. We are turning the Western US into a desert.The south-western US is suffering its eighth consecutive year of drought. There are... more
Federal scientists and Western water managers will call Congress' attention Friday to the potentially devastating effects of climate change on the Colorado River, warning that an expected warming trend would reduce the amount of water in the river.
All told, the Colorado is a water source for more than 25 million people in seven states and Mexico. The volume of the river is particularly critical for southern Nevada because the Colorado feeds Lake Mead, which supplies 90 percent of the Las Vegas Valley's water.
At Friday's congressional briefing, research scientist Gregory McCabe will present a study that shows even a 1.5-degree increase in the overall temperature of the Southwest will decrease the river's flow. It will also increase the likelihood that it will fall short of the amount needed to meet the annual allocations upon which Nevada and the other members of the Colorado River Compact rely.
"I live in the West. I worry about water supply," McCabe said. "We have lived in an anomalously wet century. A shift to a much drier climate coupled with additional warming spells trouble for the future."
"Because the water usage is so large in the (Great) Basin, it is very sensitive to even small warmings," McCabe said.
McCabe's study estimated the effects of 0.86-degree Celsius warming, which is 1.548 degrees Fahrenheit -- the same amount as the climate has changed in the past century -- and the 2-degree Celsius, or 3.6-degree Fahrenheit, warming of the climate that scientists say is possible in the next century.
He analyzed these changes against the backdrop of tree ring records used to estimate river flows going back more than 500 years, as well as more than 100 years of data from the river.
Friday's hearing comes on the heels of a recent release of a report detailing effects of warming on fish, forests, rangelands and arid lands. The U.S. Agriculture Department report predicts dwindling rivers, an increase in extreme weather -- droughts and floods -- and the death of plant life.
Federal scientists and Western water managers will call Congress' attention... more