Water in the US West

Back in 2014 and 2015 I wrote a series of articles on the drought conditions in California and Nevada (read: Jeopardy Question: This Body of Water Determines the Fate of the Modern Day Anasazi, Another Dry Essay, and Eat your Broccoli Now).

When I wrote the first article above, I looked at water requirements and usage for Las Vegas in detail. I also looked at Lake Mead both historically and the current levels at that time. I noted of the level “The latter is only 0.58 feet above the record low of 1081.94 feet set in Nov. 2010 (see complete data set).

I knew that California had received substantial rainfall over the last couple of years and stopped following the situation. I was surprised today, therefore, to read: Leaking Las Vegas: West’s Biggest Reservoir Nears Critical Threshold.

 reviewed the lake levels (LAKE MEAD AT HOOVER DAM, ELEVATION (FEET)) since 2010 and found that the lowest point was June 2016 at 1071.64 feet. This is lower than the drought period back in 2014.

Using the United States Drought Monitor, California has no severe drought conditions at the moment:

However if we look at the Colorado River basin:

and we look at the Drought  Monitor for the West:

we see that a large part of the basin is in severe to exceptional drought conditions.

This explains the current level of Lake Mead at 1078.29 feet elevation. If you read my earlier articles you will understand the significance both for the water supply of the city of Las Vegas and California agriculture.

Finally, I would modify the closing sentence of the Zero Hedge article:

as one water research scientist warned, “this problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds.”

by removing the reference to “climate change unfold” which has ambiguous meaning thanks to the IPCC and replace it by “historical (mega-)drought conditions unfold”.

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