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Sat Aug 28, 2021, 05:07 PM

40 Million People Rely on the Colorado River. It's Drying Up Fast.

On a 110-degree day several years ago, surrounded by piles of sand and rock in the desert outside of Las Vegas, I stepped into a yellow cage large enough to fit three standing adults and was lowered 600 feet through a black hole into the ground. There, at the bottom, amid pooling water and dripping rock, was an enormous machine driving a cone-shaped drill bit into the earth. The machine was carving a cavernous, 3-mile tunnel beneath the bottom of the nationís largest freshwater reservoir, Lake Mead.

Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, is one of the most important pieces of infrastructure on the Colorado River, supplying fresh water to Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico. The reservoir hasnít been full since 1983. In 2000, it began a steady decline caused by epochal drought. On my visit in 2015, the lake was just about 40% full. A chalky ring on the surrounding cliffs marked where the waterline once reached, like the residue on an empty bathtub. The tunnel far below represented Nevadaís latest salvo in a simmering water war: the construction of a $1.4 billion drainage hole to ensure that if the lake ever ran dry, Las Vegas could get the very last drop.

For years, experts in the American West have predicted that, unless the steady overuse of water was brought under control, the Colorado River would no longer be able to support all of the 40 million people who depend on it. Over the past two decades, Western states took incremental steps to save water, signed agreements to share what was left and then, like Las Vegas, did what they could to protect themselves. But they believed the tipping point was still a long way off.

Like the record-breaking heat waves and the ceaseless mega-fires, the decline of the Colorado River has been faster than expected. This year, even though rainfall and snowpack high up in the Rocky Mountains were at near-normal levels, the parched soils and plants stricken by intense heat absorbed much of the water, and inflows to Lake Powell were around one-fourth of their usual amount. The Coloradoís flow has already declined by nearly 20%, on average, from its flow throughout the 1900s, and if the current rate of warming continues, the loss could well be 50% by the end of this century.

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/40-million-people-rely-on-the-colorado-river-its-drying-up-fast

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Reply 40 Million People Rely on the Colorado River. It's Drying Up Fast. (Original post)
Zorro Aug 2021 OP
Phil the Kilibuster Aug 2021 #1
Moebym Aug 2021 #2
NickB79 Aug 2021 #4
Sneederbunk Aug 2021 #3

Response to Zorro (Original post)

Sat Aug 28, 2021, 05:42 PM

1. Vegas, L.A. and Phoenix Should Not Exist

 

They're unnatural and unsustainable.

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Response to Phil the Kilibuster (Reply #1)

Sat Aug 28, 2021, 07:17 PM

2. Hold your horses.

Here in Las Vegas, we've been doing a fine job in the past 20 years of recycling and reusing our wastewater and cutting down on the use of water for irrigation. In fact, we're currently looking into banning ornamental grass.

I don't know what you're suggesting should happen, but we can't just erase two major U.S. cities from the map...not easily, anyway. If you want to erase us from the map, why not erase Phoenix, San Diego, Tucson, Albuquerque, El Paso and Denver as well? And where would the displaced residents and industries go?

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Response to Moebym (Reply #2)

Sun Aug 29, 2021, 05:47 PM

4. We don't get the final call. Mother Nature does

If the climate models are correct, the Southwest will stay this dry, or even drier, for millennia. If this happens, a mass exodus to wetter areas such as the Upper Midwest, is inevitable, no matter how much we fight it. We just get to manage the chaos as best we can

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Response to Zorro (Original post)

Sat Aug 28, 2021, 08:00 PM

3. Look out NW. They will be coming after your water.

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