Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on February 16, 2008
Here’s breaking news from the Southwest… but whether or not it’s good depends on your perspective. Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego just finished a study showing that Lake Mead, the primary water source for Las Vegas, has a 50-50 chance of drying up by 2021. Worse than that, there’s a 10% chance the lake could be gone in 2014 – only six years from now.
The problems with storing water in the Southwest are many. The first is pretty simple: hot, dry air causes water to evaporate quickly, and more than a bucketful evaporates for every bucketful stored. Natural variation (Mother Nature as terrorist again) complicates matters, and the Colorado River Basin is in its 8th straight drought year – nothing new to the area on a non-human time scale.
Then there is the agricultural factor: 80 percent of Colorado River water goes towards farming the desert. Finally, there’s Lake Powell, about 200 air miles away, which gets first dibs on water coming down from the mountains. Drought and evaporation are putting the squeeze on Lake Powell, too, resulting in lower-volume releases.
While the bad news is obvious, the good news is that nature is doing a pretty good job purging itself of unwanted human interference. If the lakes dry up, the dams become irrelevant and maybe common sense (such as, don’t farm in the desert) will return. David Brower, preservation’s Southwestern hero, is surely smiling down on the Colorado from the great beyond. The other good news is that conservation is coming, like it or not, and forcing conservation might just shift personal awareness and responsibility in the right direction.
Can I get a line in Vegas on the year the lakes disappear?