High good, low bad: Lake Mead in October 2010

“The advice given to boaters here these days – ‘If you haven’t been to Lake Mead lately, you haven’t been to Lake Mead’ – sounds like a marketing slogan dreamed up to lure return business,” writes Shaun McKinnon in the Arizona Republic. “Except in this case the advice is true. The drought on the Colorado River has reshaped the huge reservoir so dramatically in the past 11 years that it bears little resemblance to the lake captured in snapshots just a few years ago. Water levels have dropped 133 feet. Islands have emerged and grown. Rocky outcroppings push through the surface, creating watery obstacle courses whose paths shift almost daily.”

Click here to keep reading or here for hourly elevation reports from the US Bureau of Reclamation. Lake Mead closed October at 1,082.35, less than 10 feet of the point where shortages will be announced for Arizona and

Glen Canyon Dam and the pill from MIT

This one is strictly for water wonks. Now that I’ve cleared the room, Richard Spotts of the Great Basin Water Network alerted me to this paper from the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law. “Collaborative Planning and Adaptive Management in Glen Canyon: A Cautionary Tale” looks at the impact of changing environmental regulation on the operations of the second largest dam on the Colorado River. It then wades through the on-going efforts to resolve the succession of shit storms that followed the 1956 construction of Glen Canyon Dam.

The authors, two from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the third from the University of California, Irvine write, “The Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program should not be considered a success because it has failed to address effectively the concerns that led to its creation in the first place, including:  (1) developing a stakeholder-supported operating plan responsive to increased understanding; (2)

High good, low bad: Mead in February 2010

Memorial by artist Oskar J.W. Hansen to the men who died in the construction of Hoover Dam. For more on Hansen's work for the dam-building project that made the federal Bureau of Reclamation a defining force in the naturally dry west, click on the image. Photo: Gregvreen's Photostream, Flickr

Between 96 and 112 men died in the construction of Hoover Dam, depending on how you count the deaths (from the time of the dam’s commission in 1922 or from the start of construction in 1931).

Did they die to make the desert bloom, or because the massive federal works project  offered jobs job during the Great Depression? Whether they took one for a buck or a bloom, ever since the dam’s completion and the filling of Lake Mead behind it in 1935, the captured water has gone to both desert farming in California and Arizona and a massive Southwestern housing