predicts that 20-30 year droughts in the US West will become 80
percent more likely due to human-forced warming. For Lake Mead, the
reality of mega-drought appears to already be settling in.)
these record hot days are just the most recent of many for the river
and its water. For over the past 16 years the Colorado River has been
assailed by drought. A new kind of mega-drought that has almost
certainly been spurred by a human-forced warming of the world. A
condition of endemic drying that will likely continue to worsen for
the foreseeable future.
Mead Approaching Mandatory Rationing Levels
feet — that’s
the water level for Lake Mead as of June 21, 2016.
It’s about 3 feet below the 1075 mark breached for the first time
in the reservoir’s history last year. And if Lake Mead remains
below that line by the end of this year, it will mean mandatory cuts
to Arizona and Nevada’s water supply.
could happen either this year (2016) or next (2017) and will almost
certainly happen by 2018. In fact, the US Bureau of Reclamation
predicts a 64 percent likelihood that Lake Mead will not only remain
below the 1075 foot level by 2019, but that it will plunge to as low
as 1025 feet at that time.
Mead may average near or below the 1075 line requiring mandatory cuts
in water supplies to Arizona and Nevada this year. Image source: Lake
Mead Water Level.)
level is only 125 feet above Lake Mead’s dead pool line of 900
feet. And hitting such a low water level would result in mandatory
water cuts all up and down the Colorado River Basin.
Mead supplies water to 25 million people in Nevada, Arizona, and
19 million of these people reside in California alone. And according
to the 1922 Colorado River Compact, California retains senior rights
to the river’s water supply. What this means is that when there’s
a shortage, Nevada and Arizona have to take the first hits. And
that’s bad news for the six million people and related industries
supported by the river in this region. It means that if the 16 year
drought along the Colorado River basin continues — and that will
likely be the case due to impacts related to human-caused climate
change — then water rationing is almost certain to take effect in
Arizona and Nevada over the next few years.
systems that bring rain to the US Southwest are becoming more rare.
Scientific studies indicate that this condition is caused by human
forced climate change and will continue to worsen this Century if
fossil fuel burning and human based carbon emissions do not halt
soon. Image source: Climate
you thought the current drought was bad, then this animation will
knock your socks off. Loss of soil moisture for the US is
ridiculously extreme under business as usual fossil fuel burning in
you can see in the NASA soil moisture prediction measure above, this
added heat due to climate change is expected to make currently bad
drought conditions absolutely terrible over the coming decades. NASA
notes that reductions in fossil fuel emissions help to blunt the
intensity of the coming droughts, but that worsening drought
conditions will still occur. Considering the current state of Lake
Mead and the Colorado River basin, we are likely to see worsening
water cuts to communities across the Southwest as climate change
related heat and drought conditions worsen.