In Arizona, water scarcity is like the background hum of conversation in a popular restaurant: unrelenting. But even in this desert state, the ever-present strain on water supplies could soon be felt more acutely. As soon as 2019, the water level in Lake Mead on the Colorado River could drop below an elevation of 1,075 feet. That will trigger mandatory cutbacks in water diversions from the reservoir under an agreement negotiated between the federal government and three lower-basin states that rely on the river: Arizona, California and Nevada.
California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, is an accident. It was created in 1905 when a levee broke on an irrigation canal, flooding a giant desert playa. Today it has become a sticking point in negotiations between three states over the future of the Colorado River. … To help us understand all this, Water Deeply recently spoke with Michael Cohen, a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, a water policy think-tank based in Oakland.
Tens of thousands of rafters paddle down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park each year, though most don’t scan the Redwall Limestone canyon sides for bore holes around River Mile 39. But one group of rafters that launched in mid-March was keen to see those holes and the ashy looking sediment piled beneath them. The holes mark the exploratory tinkering of those who were itching to build another dam on the Colorado decades ago.
The effects of lingering drought, and the unrelenting demand for water from farmers, cities, and energy producers converged today at Lake Mead, which drained to its lowest level since 1937 when the Hoover Dam closed off the Colorado River to begin filling the largest reservoir in the United States.
Lake Mead, the reservoir created by Hoover Dam, is anticipated this week to reach its lowest water level since the lake’s initial filling in the 1930s. The Bureau of Reclamation’s Boulder Canyon Operations Office is projecting the elevation to drop to 1,081.75 feet above sea level during the week of July 7 and to continue to drop, reaching approximately 1,080 feet in November of this year.
Drought in the southwestern U.S. will deplete the vast Lake Mead this week to levels not seen since Hoover Dam was completed and the reservoir on the Colorado River was filled in the 1930s, federal water managers said Tuesday.
Lake Mead — America’s largest reservoir, Las Vegas’ main water source, and an important indicator for water supplies in the Southwest — will fall this week to its lowest level since 1937 when the manmade lake was first being filled, according to forecasts from the federal Bureau of Reclamation.
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal Outdoors, in a post by C. Douglas Nielsen:
If you have not yet done so, and should you have the chance, get a firsthand look at the Colorado River between Hoover Dam and Willow Beach. While it is impressive to look down upon the river from atop the dam, experiencing the river at surface level is even more remarkable.
Scientists say it would have been a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. If the Glen Canyon Dam had failed, it would have changed the lives of millions of people and reshaped the history of the American West.
Arizona could be forced to cut water deliveries to its two largest cities unless states that tap the dwindling Colorado River find ways to reduce water consumption and deal with a crippling drought, officials of the state’s canal network said Tuesday.
“A point-counterpoint debate about whether one size fits all and the federal role in managing regional water resources took added significance Thursday during an American Bar Association water-law conference at a casino in drought-threatened Las Vegas.”
“The Colorado River basin is being listed as a critical conservation area under a new multi-billion dollar program that will fund conservation and soil-protection efforts, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday.”
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal, in a commentary by David Festa and John Entsminger:
“Today, there is water flowing in the Colorado River Delta — where water has not flowed regularly for half a century — all because water managers, conservation organizations and policymakers in both the United States and Mexico were able to find common ground. …Someone cue music heralding the ‘new era of Western water management.’”
From the California Department of Water Resources (DWR):
“Thousand-year tree-ring reconstructions of river flows prepared by the University of Arizona for DWR are highlighted this week at a Scripps workshop in San Diego. The workshop, led by DWR Deputy Drought Manager Jeanine Jones, is to examine patterns of climate variability that may provide predictive capability for drought or help support climate change modeling.
“A federal appeals court says environmental reviews were properly done on the nation’s largest farm-to-city water transfer, the latest ruling to uphold a 2003 agreement on how California agencies divide that state’s share of Colorado River water.”
“The Colorado River has been reunited with an old friend—the sea. Thanks to an agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, water from the river has reached the Sea of Cortez in northwestern Mexico for the first time since either 1998 (according to National Geographic) or 1993 (according to AP).”
From the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Voices blog, in a post by Jennifer Pitt:
“This week, the Colorado River will be reunited with the sea – a destination it hasn’t seen in many years – thanks to the ‘pulse flow.’ Scientists monitoring the flow expect the two waters to meet sometime today [May 15], during high tide, but it’s actually possible that the river reached the sea last week, as we learned from a handful of adventurers who rode their stand-up paddle boards to the tidal interface.”
“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has issued its decision on the federal case challenging environmental review performed under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air Act for the Colorado River Water Delivery Agreement which is also referred to as the ‘Federal Quantification Settlement Agreement.’”