Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the two sources of Colorado River water for Los Angeles, Denver, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, will be down to 45% of capacity by year’s end. This is the lowest since 1968. At least 40 million people will be threatened. This will mandate water conservation.
When you see the word “shortage,” think this: “At what price?” When you see the word “conservation, think this: “By whom?”
How will this conservation be enforced? Let’s see. The government could raise prices. But that is politically risky. Voters will complain.
How about voluntary conservation? This means that those who cooperate will see non-cooperating neighbors using all the water they choose to use. Will this work? It never has in the past.
The government has a solution. It will set up three committees to study the issue. Not just one. Three.
A report issued by the federal government last December blamed climate change and a growing population for the shortage. What can the government do about either of these? Not a thing.
Then there is this thing called evaporation. It works like this. The U.S. government builds a dam. The dam creates two huge lakes. Water then sits quietly in the desert heat. It evaporates. Then the evaporated water forms clouds. The clouds blow away to rain on other regions.
In 2008, a report was issued by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Here is a press release.
There is a 50 percent chance Lake Mead, a key source of water for millions of people in the southwestern United States, will be dry by 2021 if climate changes as expected and future water usage is not curtailed, according to a pair of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.
Without Lake Mead and neighboring Lake Powell, the Colorado River system has no buffer to sustain the population of the Southwest through an unusually dry year, or worse, a sustained drought. In such an event, water deliveries would become highly unstable and variable, said research marine physicist Tim Barnett and climate scientist David Pierce.
Barnett and Pierce concluded that human demand, natural forces like evaporation, and human-induced climate change are creating a net deficit of nearly 1 million acre-feet of water per year from the Colorado River system that includes Lake Mead and Lake Powell. This amount of water can supply roughly 8 million people. Their analysis of Federal Bureau of Reclamation records of past water demand and calculations of scheduled water allocations and climate conditions indicate that the system could run dry even if mitigation measures now being proposed are implemented.
That was in 2008. Fortunately, the three committees will study this. No doubt this will reduce evaporation.