High good, low bad: Mead in April 2010

Posted on | May 1, 2010 | 2 Comments

Detail from "The Aussie Big Dry: Lessons from Australia for the Colorado River Basin." Source: Brad Udall / CU and NOAA via the Colorado River Commission of Nevada. Click on the image for the entire presentation.

Albuquerque science writer John Fleck spent much of April meandering the Lower Basin of the Colorado River and posting his impressions. The bird-watching was delightful, particularly in Bellagio Fountain and the Las Vegas Wash. But if you read it (definitely read it) please do not be lulled by his couth tone. Fleck, in common with the scientists who he interviews, gathers facts. The implicit assumption behind this approach is that, armed with these facts, we the public will take action, hopefully in the public interest.

(There is an excellent lecture by University of Oregon philosophy professor Kathleen Dean Moore linked on WaterWired about why most of us fail to do this.)

However, even without moral tag lines, for those of us monitoring the slow collapse of our Western watersheds from its many, often weird angles, Fleck’s series is interesting reading. Most enlightening to this browser were his links from presentations made at the April meeting of the Nevada Colorado River Commission. This presentation by Brad Udall, director of the Western Water Assessment Office jointly sponsored by Colorado University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, conveys the nature of the crisis looming over one of the main arteries of the Southwestern water supply.

The slides do a dandy job laying out the problem, but not the solution. And so, even though why we need to act grows clearer by the day, how we do it remains up to us. Before believing the insidious and shameful message coming from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — that leaving enough water in our river systems for “various fish species” to survive is the problem and therefore leaving those “various fish” high and dry is the solution — do check into the Moore lecture to consider if, and why, individual action matters. No politician will have the stones to, say, take away the lawns of Los Angeles to save the Colorado River, or the Pacific estuaries tapped for the city. The creatures that we impact, be they humpbacked chub, flycatchers, smelt, salmon, orcas, seabirds or bears don’t vote. And they don’t draw tourists to Las Vegas or pay the rates that keep water wholesalers such as MWD in business. If we move to stop mass extinction through conservation and progressive water management, we will have to decide that doing so is part of our moral obligation to the future.

April 2010: 1,097.99

April 2009: 1,101.26

April 2008: 1,,110.61

April 2007: 1,120.69

April 2006: 1,135.94

April 2005: 1,144.45

April 2004: 1,134.98

April 2003: 1,148.27

April 2002: 1,167.49

Click here for historical elevations going back to 1935 from the federal Bureau of Reclamation.


2 Responses to “High good, low bad: Mead in April 2010”

  1. River Beat: Why Is Lake Mead Dropping? : jfleck at inkstain
    May 1st, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

    […] The result, as Emily Green noted today, is that Mead’s surface elevation is back under 1,100 feet as of the end of April. […]

  2. David Zetland
    May 3rd, 2010 @ 12:09 pm

    I’ve said it before (http://aguanomics.com/2009/05/lake-mead-still-draining.html): Market prices for Lake Mead water. Decide how much for nature and auction the rest. So there you go, some cojones are in the room!

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