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In August, the federal government declared the first-ever water shortage along the Colorado River as drought pushed its largest reservoir, Lake Mead, to record lows. Now, that shortage is threatening the power supply of 5.8 million homes and businesses and water levels at the nation’s second largest reservoir, Lake Powell, have fallen to record lows. Now, projections say there is a 34% chance that the levels could fall so low by 2023, that the lake’s Glen Canyon Dam won’t be able to provide electricity at all.
Why This Matters: The Colorado River water shortage is unprecedented, but soon other rivers and water sources may see severe shortages as well. A 2020 study found that by 2071, 204 of the nation’s freshwater basins may not be able to meet water demand, which is only increasing as drought and wildfires grip the Western US. The nation’s power and water infrastructure are not prepared for climate disasters of this scale, and climate experts predict extreme water cuts for millions of people if swift action isn’t taken to halt global temperature rise.
New projections released by the US Bureau of Reclamation this week reported only a 3% chance that Lake Powell will drop below hydroelectricity-generating levels by next year. But future projections jump more than tenfold by 2023. This would be a huge hit to hydroelectric infrastructure as Glen Canyon Dam provides power from 5.8 million homes and businesses, stretching from Nevada to Nebraska.
The report also found that there is a 20% chance that water levels in Lake Mead could fall below 1,000 feet above sea level in 2025, just 100 feet above the level at which water would be too low to flow through the Hoover Dam.
Climate experts say that this problem isn’t going away unless comprehensive climate action is taken to preserve the nation’s water resources. “It’s possible you might have a wet year, but the long-term trend is in completely the wrong direction,” said Brad Udall, Senior Water & Climate Research Scientist, Colorado Water Institute. “Every passing year that becomes clearer, and it’s getting harder for anyone who thinks otherwise to be taken seriously.”
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer For decades, uranium mining has contaminated the Navajo Nation, causing higher cancer rates and water pollution. Even though the health risks and environmental harms of uranium mining are well-established, new operations continue to move forward. One local group, the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) hasn’t found a […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he would extend the drought emergency statewide and issued an executive order to have residents conserve water. As part of this effort, eight new counties were added to the state of emergency, and authorized the State Water Resources Control Board was authorized to […]
By Elizabeth Love, ODP Contributing Writer Authorities in the Canadian Arctic territory Nunavut, announced a state of emergency this week due to a possible contamination event affecting the City of Iqaluit’s water supply. Tests were performed after residents reported the smell of gasoline coming from their tap water, but they came back clean. However, […]
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