In the drought-parched Western United States, it is hard to find a silver lining in the economic and social costs that the long-term drought has caused. But at Lake Mead on the Colorado River, people are trying to make the most of the limited water supplies and take advantage of the unique sights that the low water levels have revealed. In late July, CBS News reported that the exceptionally low lake levels have revealed interesting historical attractions that up until the drought, were essentially unreachable. The receding shoreline revealed the foundations of Saint Thomas, a pioneer town that Mormon settlers founded in 1865. Until the US government purchased the land in the 1930s, the town was inhabited and included a school, homes, a general store and ice cream parlor. In the 1990s, 100 feet or so of water would have covered the ruins of Saint Thomas. Now, visitors can hike for about a mile across the desert to reach the foundations of the former town. Continue reading
Last July, Lake Mead dropped to its historic low elevation.
Water managers keep tabs on the reservoir conditions, so they were not blindsided. Solutions were already being sought. But I wonder, does crossing such a threshold spur a sense of urgency? Or do they already feel the pressure as the threshold approaches?
The most recent US Drought Monitor released on December 30th finally shows a small glimmer of improvement for California’s drought. Over the last few weeks, a series of major storms dropped significantly higher than normal rains across much of Northern California. In fact, rain in some major Bay Area cities fell at the fastest clip ever recorded there. Oakland received 455% higher than average rainfall in December. San Francisco recorded 424% higher than average rainfall, and San Jose recorded an astonishing 736% of its average rainfall this December. Unfortunately, all of this rainfall put only a small dent in the drought conditions that mire the state. According to the US Drought Monitor, exceptional drought covers 32.21% of the state this week versus 55.08% at the beginning of the December. Continue reading
In my last Post, I wrote about how a part of California’s water future is inextricably linked to the health of the Colorado River’s water supply. As I mentioned, the Colorado River currently is enjoying the benefits of a slightly above average snowpack in the mountains that feed the River. Further, the Colorado River has two of the largest reservoirs in the West in Lake Powell and Lake Mead. These two reservoirs help to stabilize the water reserves for the states that rely on the River’s bounty and aid in planning for future drought years. But lately, both scientists and policymakers have grown increasingly concerned that we will not be able to rely on the Colorado to supply as much water in the future. One state that these decreased water supplies could affect critically is Arizona. In this piece, I will discuss the challenges that Arizona faces from dwindling Colorado River supplies, and highlight the steps that the state is taking to address these long-term supply challenges. Continue reading