Originally published June 27 2015
Not just Lake Mead, Lake Powell is also headed for catastrophic drought collapse
by L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
(NaturalNews) The most precious resource on the planet is dissipating from the Southwestern United States. The two largest water reservoirs in the country are below 45 percent their normal capacity. Lake Mead, which supplies water to seven of every ten people living in Nevada, is drying up at an unprecedented pace, and further upriver, the crisis proves to be deepening. Lake Powell has now fallen below 45 percent capacity. If water conservation measures are not met and weather conditions do not change, then millions of people in the Southwest could be affected by water shortages in the next 15 years.
The Colorado River, which carved the gorgeous Glen Canyon, supplies water to 40 million people living in seven different states in the southwest. Half a century ago, the Glen Canyon Dam was built and Lake Powell was formed, preparing the way for desert cities to grow and large agricultural activity to flourish. It took nearly a decade for melting snow from the Rocky Mountains to fill the lake. Measuring 190 miles across, Lake Powell now attracts millions of tourists every year. Lying on the border of Arizona and Utah, this man-made wonder is the US's second largest reservoir.
Today, Lake Powell's vastness is diminishing with water levels falling under 45 percent capacity. The conditions at Lake Powell are beginning to look similar to Lake Mead, the world's largest reservoir, which sits 180 miles downriver and is also drying up at a shocking pace.
Lake Powell's "Bathtub ring" now appears 100 feet above boatersWater levels at Glen Canyon dam have fallen more than 100 feet. The shoreline of Lake Powell now shows a deepening "bathtub ring" – a natural phenomenon that shows how high water levels used to be. This "bathtub ring" now shows in the sandstone walls of the canyon some 100 feet above today's boaters who must now navigate around emerging islands and mud bogs.
Click here to view pictures of Lake Powell at The Guardian.
Aquatic biologist Erin Janicki has watched the change from the river's edge. "The water's 110ft below the top of bathtub ring," she said. "There are parts of the lake that have pretty much become mud flats. The inlets get silted up. It takes longer to jet around the lake because some of the waterways aren't open and you have to go around obstacles.
"There's still a lot of water out there, but there's been a big change. People hit rock islands all the time."
Janicki sees urban development in desert regions as a cause for concern because there's just not enough water to go around anymore. "I don't like seeing big developments in the desert," she said. "These cities growing all the time. More people and less water. It doesn't seem sustainable to me. Page has a golf course. Here, in the desert."
After all, the Colorado River is the primary water source for consumption-based desert cities like Las Vegas. The river also supplies water to southern California agriculture, which is suffering in its own drought.
Only a matter of time before dependent Southwestern cities collapse as water levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead fall to historic lowsThe Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that manages water from both reservoirs, has few, if any options to save the populations of the Southwest if the natural snow melt in the Rocky Mountains cannot keep up with the people's demands.
"We all are depending on the snow pack on the Rockies and Lake Powell is the first reservoir," said Rose Davis of the Bureau of Reclamation's Upper Colorado region. "It doesn't look very good. We have 56 percent of normal snow pack is the last reading that I saw. It's just terrible."
Water levels in Lake Mead have dropped from 90 percent capacity in 2000 to less than 40 percent in 2015. At this rate, will the water be nearly diminished by 2030? Will entire agricultural systems collapse and will cities in the Southwest erupt into wild chaos as water sources dwindle to scarcity?
Lake Powell now mirrors Lake Mead, as its water levels fall to their lowest levels since 1937. The difference between 2015 and 1937 is the amount of people who now depend on this infrastructure to survive. How long will water supplies last in the Southwest? Will there be a great migration over the next decade as people flee the arid Southwest?
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