High good, low bad: Mead in February 2010

Posted on | March 1, 2010 | 1 Comment

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 boom.

The upshot has been an ever-swelling population dependent on a naturally varying supply of water. Since 2002, that variation has been toward a dry cycle, leaving sunbelt suburbs and farms in a Darwinian struggle for water. Moreover, the specter of climate change suggests a starkly drier future. The steadily descending elevations of Lake Mead during the last decade are laid out after the jump. The federal Bureau of Reclamation reports that Mead is at 46% of capacity and the entire Colorado River system at 56%.

February 2010: 1,103.21

February 2009: 1,111.43

February 2008: 1,116.93

February 2007: 1,129.35

February 2006: 1,141.20

February 2005: 1,143.25

February 2004: 1,140.11

February 2003: 1,154.42

February 2002: 1,176.50

February 2001: 1,196.62

Click here for Lake Mead elevations going back to 1935.


One Response to “High good, low bad: Mead in February 2010”

  1. Low Bad : jfleck at inkstain
    March 4th, 2010 @ 9:03 pm

    […] Emily Green likes to point out, low is bad when it comes to flow and water storage on the Colorado, and it’s increasingly […]

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