What happens when the west runs out of water?

From Scripps Oceanographic Institute:

There is a 50 percent chance Lake Mead, a key source of water for millions of people in the southwestern United States, will be dry by 2021 if climate changes as expected and future water usage is not curtailed, according to a pair of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

Without Lake Mead and neighboring Lake Powell, the Colorado River system has no buffer to sustain the population of the Southwest through an unusually dry year, or worse, a sustained drought. In such an event, water deliveries would become highly unstable and variable, said research marine physicist Tim Barnett and climate scientist David Pierce.
(…)

This is a mind-boggling story. Even more amazing, it came out two weeks ago, and then disappeared from news coverage. Another example of ignoring pending disaster.

UPDATE: Historical data on Lake Mead elevations. The big dip in 1965 is the filling of Lake Powell upstream from Lake Mead.  Of course it’s a mistake to extrapolate recent trends, but the drought since 2000 must be worrisome to people in the Southwest.  The wet year in 2008 doesn’t make a dent.  The other question I’m interested in is inflows the the dams on the lower Colorado River, and deliveries that are obligated to the various customers (cities and farmers) in California and Arizona.  mead-data.png

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2 responses to “What happens when the west runs out of water?

  1. You cant be serious? There is a reason it has thankfully disappeared. Flawed assumptions, criteria that is less likely to happen than another ice age. Add to that a record year for CR basin filling in 2008. Oh yeah- the new water conservation pact. Sensationalist journalism without research.

  2. Hmmm. Scripps *is* research, not journalism. So if you claim flawed assumptions, I’d like to see your data. And one wet year will not fill the dams.

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