Tag Archive for 'Colorado River running dry'

Lake Mead to receive extra water from feds

Photo retrieved from: hikearizona.com

“The federal government will release enough extra water into drought-stricken Lake Mead in the coming months to avoid shortages on the lower Colorado River for as long as five years.

“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Friday that runoff from snow in the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado is expected to increase storage on the river enough to adjust water levels at two key reservoirs and avert drought restrictions.

“The decision comes just six months after Lake Mead dropped to within 7 feet of a level that would have triggered drought restrictions. Under those restrictions, Arizona would have lost about 11 percent of its allocation for at least one year.

“Arizona officials had prepared contingency plans that included forfeiting a small amount of the state’s allocation as a hedge against larger losses. Those plans are no longer necessary.

“”We still want to be somewhat cautious,” said Tom McCann, assistant general manager of the Central Arizona Project, which delivers Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson. “We’ve been in drought for 11 years. We’ve had a good year, and that’s very helpful. It pushes us further away from shortages, but it doesn’t mean the drought is over.”

Read more: AZ Central

Running dry on the Colorado

Strontia Dam

Over a hundred dams contain the river water, both inside and outside of the Colorado River Basin. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Waterman; retrieced from: Grist.org

“Climate models for the second half of this century show that up to 70 percent of the snowpack, which supplies the river 90 percent of its water, will disappear. Despite a whopping snowfall and long winter in the Upper Basin, the two biggest reservoirs created by Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams, “Lakes” Mead and Powell, are presently at half of their collective 50-maf capacities and are unlikely to recharge from the winter’s big snowfall after meeting their downstream orders to create electricity and fill irrigation ditches.

“If this nine-year drought continues on beyond a decade, as predicted, life throughout the river basin will be irrevocably changed. First, the sprawling economy created by recreational river and reservoir use throughout the river basin will go bust — crippling scores of towns and small cities along the river. Swimming pools will be drained and lawns browned in Salt Lake City, Utah; Cheyenne, Wyo.; and Albuquerque, N.M. Without Hoover Dam generating relatively clean and rapidly created hydroelectric power, Los Angeles will have blackouts. Without Glen Canyon Dam powering air conditioners, people will abandon sweltering Phoenix, necessitating the construction of more noxious, water consumptive coal plants on the far reaches of the energy grid. Several million acres of farms in the Southwest — including Imperial Valley, the fifth richest agricultural region in the country — will go fallow. Without radical change, citizens in Denver, Colo.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and San Diego, Calif., will have trouble flushing their toilets. Thirty million people will begin losing their drinking water. Finally, thanks to the antiquated Colorado River Compact, lawsuits will lock up what little water remains in what is already known as the most diverted river in the world.

“Like other states in the river basin, Colorado developed around the ability to manipulate water. Financiers knew that “water runs uphill to money,” and so does this ditch, pumped at a one percent grade over the Continental Divide.

“As evidence of this water-as-gold maxim, in Colorado, we cannot legally catch rain in our gutters to water our gardens, because Brad and I live under the doctrine of prior appropriation — or first in time, first in right — meaning that someone below us already owns the water. These rights can be bought and sold separately from whatever rights we’d like to think we own on our roofs, high above and far away from any farmer. In times of drought, the owner of the oldest water right, regardless of distance from the river or its headwaters, reserves the right to use the water. This explains why ranchers and farmers 80 miles to the west in Grand Junction, Colo., or 80 miles to the east in Fort Morgan, Colo., own the water that falls on our Carbondale or Boulder roofs.”

read more: Grist