High good, low bad: Mead in July 2013

Steadily falling elevations of Lake Mead, the largest storage reservoir in the West, reinforce the need for Western cities to emphasize conservation as a source of "new" water.

High good, low bad: Mead in March 2013

The next mayor of Los Angeles needs to be a conservationist as Southern California faces a dry spring.

High good, low bad: Mead in March 2012

The steady rise of Lake Mead, clearinghouse of Colorado River water for the Southwestern US and Mexico, was heartening while it lasted. From a November 2010 low only seven feet shy of triggering shortage declarations, a steady flow into the biggest reservoir in the US throughout 2011 pushed Mead’s elevation 58 feet above the austerity line.

However, in March 2012, the level began to fall again. Look at year-on-year figures from the federal Bureau of Reclamation and it is clear that since 2000 the overwhelming trend has been downward. The entire river system, including Mead, is only 63% of what Reclamation classifies as full.

If there is good news to be had in decline, and there is, part of it is that an innovative landscape architecture instructor at Cal Poly Pomona is tweaking the founding Reclamation mission to “make the desert bloom.” Charged with leading a sustainability studio this winter,

High good, low bad: Mead in October 2011

While we set out to scare each other last night, Lake Mead was all about reassurance. The largest storage reservoir on the Colorado River continued to rise as a result of last winter’s generous snowpack. Allowing for some tweaking by federal river keepers, Mead closed at midnight on Halloween 2011 at 1,120.00 feet.

This is almost 37 feet higher than the previous October closing.


High good, low bad: Mead in July 2011

Why, you might wonder, would anyone in their right mind use a map highlighting the Mississippi River system for a monthly post about the elevation of the largest reservoir on the Colorado River?  The reason is a renewed offer on the table from Las Vegas water manager Pat Mulroy. Divert the Mississippi and its tributaries to feed upper basin Colorado River users, give Vegas the water therefore left in the Colorado River system and she’ll leave the Great Basin aquifer alone. “The instate project wouldn’t be needed because at that point what you’ve done is securitize the Colorado River,” she tells a reporter for “Vegas, Inc.” 

This transcontinental flood control scheme isn’t new. Pat’s been braving ribald mockery over it for at least three years now. The “give me more Colorado River water or the Great Basin desert gets it” line isn’t new either — that’s been a

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