Thursday, February 14, 2008

Water, Water....Nowhere

A few weeks ago, I posted a story about how the reservoirs out west, providing states like Arizona and California, might run dry by 2050.

The study was wrong. It could happen in the next decade:
Climate change and a growing demand for water could drain two of the nation's largest manmade reservoirs within 13 years, depriving several Southwestern states of key water sources, scientists warn.

Researchers at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography said Wednesday that there's a 50 percent chance that lakes Mead and Powell will dry up by 2021, and a 10 percent chance the lakes will run out of usable water by 2013.
2021. That's fourteen years away, but there's worse news.

See, a lot of energy generated in the west is from hydroelectric dams along the Colordao river, like the Hoover Dam which forms Lake Mead. As water levels drop, the power generated by the flows of water decreases. Estimates are that within ten years, 2017, water levels will have dropped sufficiently much that power could not be generated by the Colorado at Lake Mead in Arizona. Already, a drought has dropped water levels to below 50% of normal capacity for this time of year (that's before the snowpack run off).

Mead is on the Arizona-Nevada border. The design of the pipes are such that Nevada would physically lose water flow from the river and reservoir if it drops below a thousand feet in depth, a level it is perilously close to.