river drought colorado river

Record drought shows mind blowing change in Colorado River

Lake Powell is at historic lows, and while for kayakers it may be a great opportunity to explore channels, it raises a big alarm regarding the future of water in the area.

river drought colorado river

PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL MELFORD, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

Lake Powell is a reservoir on the Colorado River between the border of Utah and Arizona. It is the second largest man-made reservoir by maximum water capacity in the United States and a very popular touristic destination, with over 2 million visitors every year; once a majestic reservoir, now it is only a shadow of what it used to be, with drought changing the landscape in worrying ways.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 11 of the past 14 years have been drought years in the Southwest. The only difference was the type of the drought – “severe”, “extreme” or “exceptional” – not really words you wanna hear. Most climate scientists agree that with global warming and changing climate patterns, the situation will not only not improve – but it will get worse. There is growing concern regarding a mega drought in the Southwest.

Image via National Geographic.

Should the drought accentuate in Lake Powell, the results will be disastrous; many farms and dairy operations are depending on this water to survive. Also, the ecosystem is depending on the river – and despite severe measures, the drought continues. Homeowners are fined if they water their lawns, while private companies are forced to limit their water consumption. But the effect will be even more far fetching.

As conditions continue to deteriorate, prices will likely rise throughout the entire country – or at least a big part of it. Some companies will have to shut down and go away. They will leave behind unemployed people and poverty. The left behind people will either suffer or go to another place – likely somewhere pretty close where they will put more stress on local water resources. Cities like Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, and Las Vegas depend on water from the Colorado river, and they are also consuming more and more. Climate change is affecting us all, and we’re all responsible for finding solutions. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do so before it’s too late.

 Read a beautiful article on NG describing the situation in more detail here.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Record drought shows mind blowing change in Colorado River

  1. Jim Corcoran

    Save taxpayer’s money AND defund climate change and environmental destruction by ending the enormous subsidies and tax breaks for animal agriculture!

    With 60+ BILLION food animals on the planet our best chance to mitigate climate change is to severely reduce consumption of animal foods. More than 1/3 of human induced warming is attributable to animal agriculture. Methane is 24 times more potent than CO2 but takes only 7 years to cycle out of the atmosphere. CO2 takes around 100 years to come out. Human pursuit of animal protein is the leading cause of methane release and a primary cause of CO2 concentrating in the atmosphere. Check the facts and act!

    “As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

    “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains… the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

    “A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy.” ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

  2. lenrosen4

    The drought that the American Southwest is experiencing has occurred before. We know that the Anasazi in the 13th century experienced a prolonged drought in the Colorado River basin. Eventually they abandoned their cliff-dwelling cities. There may have been other mitigating circumstances beyond the drought that can explain the vanishing of Anasazi from their cities. Maybe war played a role. But one thing we do know, the climate change the Anasazi experienced wasn’t induced by atmospheric warming from greenhouse gases. It could be that the Anasazi were impacted by the same climate change pattern that induced Europe’s Medieval Warm Period coincident with the Viking settlements of Greenland and Newfoundland. What made it possible for Europe to enjoy benign weather may have contributed to aridity in Southwestern North America.The tree rings from this area of the United States show that the drought experienced then lasted from 1276 to 1299 A.D. And the Anasazi may have established themselves in cliff dwellings as a last bastion against the drought, eking out the last reliable water sources to be found in the area.

    I raise this story largely because weather is not climate change. It may be a symptom but definitively we cannot say that the Southwest U.S. drought currently underway is directly attributable to atmospheric warming. Could the Pacific Ocean cycles between El Ninos and La Ninas have an influence on the air masses that currently dominate this part of North America? Could changes to Pacific coastal currents be a contributing factor? Could recent solar minimums be altering atmospheric weather patterns to put the Southwest at risk? It very well may be that carbon dioxide is the root cause but we need a longer time period to fully understand if this is actually the case.

    The drying out of Lakes Mead and Powell and the lower Colorado River should be a concern to everyone living in the cities of the Southwest. They too may go the way of the Anasazi of Mesa Verde if we do not see a weather pattern change or we do not perfect a technology that grabs the water vapor in the air as a means to mitigate the precipitation loss.

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