High good, low bad: Mead in January 2011

Posted on | February 1, 2011 | No Comments

The Economist is the latest migratory Eastern (English this time) high flier to take a pass over Lake Mead and notice the “bathtub ring,” then to quote Las Vegas water manager Pat Mulroy, who said that Southern Nevada is the “canary in the mine shaft” of western water scarcity. That would be true if canaries were the ones running the mines. Anyway, as far as January on the Colorado River went, a far more interesting story appeared last month in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which reported that work on the “starter tunnel” for the “third straw” for Las Vegas to draw water from an ever-shallower Lake Mead will need to begin afresh because of persistent flooding problems. Click here to read Henry Brean’s report.

Meanwhile, for those who follow such things, Lake Mead closed at 1,091.73 feet, or thereabouts. By way of characterization, suffice it to say that the elevation is the lowest it’s been at the close of January since the 1960s and the construction of Glen Canyon Dam upstream. The closing January elevation of Lake Mead last year was 1,100.02, a decade ago 1,197.27. You get the drift, and the source of the bathtub metaphors for the mineral deposits left on the sides of America’s largest reservoir as its stores steadily shrink. Click here for a full set of Lake Mead’s elevations since the construction of the Hoover Dam from the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

UPDATE February 2, 2011: The Deseret News reports: In recent weeks, the level of Lake Powell has been dropping sharply. The agency that controls the reservoir is releasing 11 billion gallons of water each day to help bring up the level of Nevada’s Lake Mead.

“That level of release hasn’t occurred since the late ’90s,” said Richard Clayton, a hydraulic engineer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation whose job is to oversee releases from the Glen Canyon Dam. Click here to keep reading about the balancing act between Powell and Mead.


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