Tag Archive for 'Lake Mead'

Las Vegas Completing Last Straw to Draw Lake Mead Water

Photo retrieved from: www.abcnews.com

“It took $817 million, two starts, more than six years and one worker’s life to drill a so-called “Third Straw” to make sure glittery casinos and sprawling suburbs of Las Vegas can keep getting drinking water from near the bottom of drought-stricken Lake Mead.

The pipeline, however, won’t drain the largest Colorado River reservoir any faster. It’s designed to ensure that Las Vegas can still get water if the lake surface drops below two existing supply intakes.

“You turn on the tap, you don’t think about it,” said Noah Hoefs, a pipeline project manager for the Las Vegas-based Southern Nevada Water Authority. “These are the things being done in order to live the lifestyle we want in the places we want to live.”

It’s the latest example of ways the parched West is scrambling to deal with 15 years of unprecedented drought.

California is encouraging homeowners to rip out thirsty lawns and asking farmers to turn off spigots. And in New Mexico, a $550 million pipeline project would supply drinking water to several communities that run the risk of having wells go dry within a decade.

Las Vegas started in 1999 to conserve, reuse and replenish supplies. When Lake Mead water levels plummeted in 2002, regional water officials began drawing up plans for the pipeline.

“Unlike California and our other partners on the river, we are almost entirely reliant on Lake Mead,” said John Entsminger, water authority general manager. “We couldn’t afford to wait.”

Sin City gets about 90 percent of its drinking water from the lake behind Hoover Dam, itself an engineering marvel that cost the lives of about 100 workers during five years of construction before it was completed in 1936.

The need for the new pipeline can be seen in the wide white mineral band marking rock canyon walls where lake water has receded and the sun-bleached docks at abandoned marinas, left high and dry.

The water level has dropped almost the equivalent of a 20-story building since Lake Mead last topped the dam’s spillways in 1983.”

Read more: abc News

 

Drought — and neighbors — press Las Vegas to conserve water

Photo retrieved from: www.nbcnews.com

“An ongoing drought and the Colorado River’s stunted flow have shrunk Lake Mead to its lowest level in generations. The reservoir, which supplies 90% of Las Vegas’ water, is ebbing as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain. By mid-April, Lake Mead’s water level measured just 48 feet above the system’s topmost intake straw.

Future droughts and a warming climate change could spell trouble for the city’s 2 million residents — and its 40 million annual visitors. Those people “better hope nothing goes wrong with the last intake,” said water authority spokesman J.C. Davis.

“But if something does go wrong,” he added, “we’re in the business of making contingency plans.”

For officials here, the scenario signifies a formidable job: providing water for the nation’s driest city. Las Vegas uses more water per capita than most communities in America — 219 gallons of water per person every day — and charges less for it than many communities.

Summer temperatures top 115 degrees in a scorched environment that in a banner year receives a paltry four inches of rain. The inhospitable conditions have pushed officials to develop water conservation programs considered models worldwide.”

Read more: LA Times

 

Las Vegas Accused of Engineering Massive Water Grab: Is This the Future of the West?

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

“When groundwater reserves ran low in the 1940s, the region turned to Lake Mead. Today, the Las Vegas area gets 90 percent of its water from the no-longer-very-mighty Colorado River as it is corralled behind Hoover Dam in Lake Mead. And now that’s threatened. A new federal study released in December found that the over-allocated Colorado River will be further stretched by climate change, drought and climbing populations. By 2060, the river will be short of what its dependents in seven U.S. states need by 3.2 million acre-feet a year. (An acre-foot of water is roughly enough for one suburban family per year.)

So what’s a city — or really, its water manager — to do? A smart gambler wouldn’t bet on the Colorado.

SNWA is in the midst of an $800 million project to insert another “straw” into Lake Mead. This is the third intake pipe built for the lake — the last two proved not deep enough to keep up with the lake’s falling levels. But this is just part of the plan. Another part comes with a bigger pricetag — estimated as high as $15 billion — and involves building hundreds of miles of water pipelines and related infrastructure to tap water from four rural valleys in eastern Nevada’s White Pine and Lincoln counties.”

Read more: Alternet

Perilous New Vegas Water Pipeline Claims A Life

Photo retrieved from: www.totallasvegasexperience.com

“Just six miles from where the Hoover Dam holds back the largest reservoir in the nation, workers are struggling against solid rock, geologic faults and seeping water to construct an intake tunnel to keep drinking water flowing from shrinking Lake Mead to thirsty Las Vegas.

Their work in a hot, humid cavern some 600 feet below ground goes largely unnoticed by local residents and tourists enjoying icy drinks in glittery Sin City casinos and nightspots.

But the perils of tunneling beneath the lake bed were cast in stark terms this week, when a veteran tunnel worker died on the daunting $817 million, five-year project that officials compare with building the dam itself. They cast the so-called “Third Straw” project as the most complex current effort of its kind in the U.S.

“It has factors that are very unique to this project and make it very complicated,” said Heidi Dexheimer, a Las Vegas civil engineer and regional representative of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Dexheimer once worked at the Southern Nevada Water Authority and is familiar with the project, but isn’t involved with it.”

Read more: NPR

 

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

New Data Reveals Farmers Are Mining Groundwater at Alarming Rate

Photo retrieved from: www.jetsettingmagazine.com

“California farms represent 8% of the US’s agriculture value, and the Central Valley is where most of that growing takes place. However, as the state struggles with ongoing droughts, the groundwater supplies are dwindling at a frightening rate. According to satellite technology used by NASA, over a 6.5 year period the groundwater supplies in Central Valley leaked away by an amount equal to 63% of the capacity of Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir. With that much water disappearing, it is harder to replenish supplies when it finally does rain. Does this water debt mean a future food crisis?

National Geographic‘s Sandra Postel reports, “Rarely is groundwater use monitored, measured or regulated. This is true for most of the world, as well as for California’s Central Valley-the fruit and vegetable bowl of the United States. Farmers in the 52,000 square-kilometer valley produce 250 different kinds of crops that together account for 8 percent of the nation’s agricultural value. But thanks to the National Atmospheric and Space Administration’s (NASA) satellite mission called GRACE (the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), we’re getting some excellent assessments of what’s happening to water underground-and the picture is sobering.”

Read more: AlterNet

Water Use In Southwest Heads For A Day Of Reckoning

The Southern Nevada Water Authority is tunneling under Lake Mead to install an intake valve that could continue operating until water levels dropped below 1,000 feet. Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“Barring a sudden end to the Southwest’s 11-year drought, the distribution of the river’s dwindling bounty is likely to be reordered as early as next year because the flow of water cannot keep pace with the region’s demands.

For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system — irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los Angeles — could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet.

If it does, that will set in motion a temporary distribution plan approved in 2007 by the seven states with claims to the river and by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada would be reduced.

This could mean more dry lawns, shorter showers and fallow fields in those states, although conservation efforts might help them adjust to the cutbacks. California, which has first call on the Colorado River flows in the lower basin, would not be affected.”

Read more: New York Times