High good, low bad: Mead in July 2010

Posted on | August 1, 2010 | 6 Comments

Photograph: Pete McBride on the parched Colorado River delta, by Jonathan Waterman. Click on the image to be taken to Waterman's Colorado River Project.

During a recent discussion of water at the Aspen Institute’s Environment Forum in Colorado, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt told a packed house: “The American Southwest is not one of those regions where there is water scarcity. It’s hard to believe, given all the hyping in the national and local and regional press.”

The audience and his copanelists–Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project and freshwater fellow for the National Geographic Society, and Pat Mulroy, general manager of Southern Nevada Water Authority (overseeing Las Vegas water)–were taken aback by these statements, writes Jonathan Waterman in the first of a series of Colorado River notes in National Geographic.

Throughout the Southwest, and particularly in a region that I know, the Colorado River Basin, the so called “water buffalos” (those who line their pockets with virtual water) commonly talk about this river as though it has not run dry. If only because the water continues to irrigate 2,000,000 acres of agriculture, run 336 miles into Phoenix and Tucson, 224 miles to Los Angeles, or under the Rockies toward Denver through no less than 12 tunnels. Click here to continue reading Waterman in National Geographic.

Meanwhile, the level of Lake Mead, the main storage reservoir on the Colorado, continues its inexorable drop. At the close of July it was 1,086.97 feet, the lowest that it has been for that month since Mead was filled in the 1930s. Click here for a full set of historical elevations from the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

Sunday’s normal news round-up, “The week that was,” will return next week. Watch Monday for the return of the California legislature and its vote on whether or not to leave the state’s $11bn water bond on the November ballot. On Monday, the Pacific Institute will be releasing an analysis of what the bond would accomplish. Click here for more information. For a full round-up of California water news, go to Aquafornia, the newsfeed of the Water Education Foundation, or to UC Berkeley’s On Water.  For San Diego water news, try Groksurf’s San Diego. Or, for all things fresh water, do check in with WaterWired.


6 Responses to “High good, low bad: Mead in July 2010”

  1. Chris W. Miller
    August 1st, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

    You think there might be a political agenda? Pat Mulroy said at a meeting I attended,
    “The hyperbole (hyper exaggerations) coming from rural Nevadan’s about their water table concerns was childish.” Sounds like they are preaching the same nonsense to me.
    Chris W. Miller

  2. EmilyGreen
    August 1st, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

    I don’t know, but that’s a good question. Where these people gather, there is almost always an agenda. Mrs. Mulroy is not sympathetic to the worries of rural Nevadans about their ground table, which is odd, given that almost any hydrologist not in her employ says the impacts of the proposed LV pumps would be profound and irreversible. As for Babbitt’s remarks — there is something funny. Babbitt has either lost his mind or he was setting up a straw dog — or something. I have a hard time believing that a former governor from a state that will be hard hit and soon by rationing on the Colorado doesn’t see a water problem in the Southwest. What’s clear is there is not enough water to keep using it the way we have been using it, and I like the way Waterman keeps bringing attention back to the Delta, something that rarely makes the American radar because it’s in Mexico.

  3. Charlie
    August 2nd, 2010 @ 11:46 am

    The desert is taking back its canyons the best way it can – through parched winds and burning sun. The huge reservoirs of the Colorado are on the way out, and no monkey wrenches were ever involved. Somewhere, in a forgotten box canyon submerged for a few short decades, the ghost of Edward Abbey is laughing.

  4. The Imperial Irrigation District’s Problem – LA Might Get the Water! : jfleck at inkstain
    August 2nd, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

    […] would think that on the over-appropriated Lower Colorado River, downstream from dwindling Lake Mead, getting by on less water would be a good thing. But this little news blurb from KXO radio in El […]

  5. 55 gallon water barrel
    August 6th, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

    Why are people so afraid to just say the truth. I like to use the old “eyeball” test. If the water levels are declining, then regardless of what may be occuring downstream, we have an issue upstream.

    What’s so crazy is that water conservation really isn’t that hard. I could do it in my sleep. Politicians treat this as a hot potato, when it’s really just a slam dunk.

  6. The Greensward: Civitas: Going Down Dry | Emergency Food Supply Kits
    August 16th, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

    […] was also completed recently for emergency water storage. All of these are being drawn down, with Mead being the foremost indicator of the systemic loss of […]

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