“Megdrought” depletes systems that supply water to 40 million people

This morning, our series “I on earth“I’m seeing a terrible drought that hits most of the western United States.”

Scientists call this a “megadrought” caused by climate change.

up to date US Drought Surveillance Map Indicates that the large area of ​​the southwest is the worst category of “exceptionally dry”.

    / Credits: National Drought Mitigation Center

/ Credits: National Drought Mitigation Center

It has made dramatic sacrifices to the Colorado River system, which supplies 40 million people in seven states, and could force the federal government to make drastic and historic decisions.

Symbolic for over 80 years Hoover Dam It uses the water of Lake Mead, Nevada to cover the backside. But now at the age of 85, it’s exposed to discomfort. Much of the water that the dam was supposed to hold is gone.

“This is a different world,” said Pat Malroy, former world chief executive officer. South Nevada Waterworks BureauShe told CBS News Senior National and Environmental Correspondent Bentracy that Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, is on track to reach the lowest levels ever recorded.

This part of the Colorado River system is an important source of water for Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Southern California. Enables vast farmland in the southwestern desert.

Marroy said, “This landscape cries out for me. That is, look at the ring in the bathtub. For me, it’s a big alarm clock.”

The water level of Lake Mead is dropping sharply as the western drought continues. / Credits: CBS News

The water level of Lake Mead is dropping sharply as the western drought continues. / Credits: CBS News

Lake Mead has a capacity of only 37%.

It has never been full since the water reached the top of the Hoover Dam in 2000.

View of the Hoover Dam in 2000. / Credit: US Development Agency

View of the Hoover Dam in 2000. / Credit: US Development Agency

This looks like it is now:

View at Hoover Dam, 2021. / Credits: CBS News

View at Hoover Dam in 2021. / Credits: CBS News

Since 2000, Lake Mead has fallen 130 feet, equivalent to the height of a 13-story building. You can now see the islands of the lake that were completely submerged.

In 2014, Tracy visited the dam., And asked Malroy about the water level of Lake Mead. She explained that Lake Mead is at a “quite critical point.”

Today, Tracy asked, “Where are we if we look 30 feet lower now?”

“We are at a turning point,” Marroy said. “This is an existential problem for Arizona, California and Nevada. It’s very simple.”

For the first time in history, the federal government will declare a water shortage in the lower Colorado River at the end of this summer. This will automatically shut down water in Nevada and Arizona from 2022. Homeowners have a high priority and are less painful at first than farmers.

Dan Thelander is a second-generation family-owned farmer in Pinal County, Arizona. The water for growing his corn and alfalfa fields comes from Lake Mead. “Without irrigation water, we can’t farm,” he said. “That means we’ll have about 25% less water next year, which means we’ll either fallow or not plant 25% of our land.”

In 2023, Thelander and other farmers in this part of Arizona are expected to lose almost all of their water from Lake Mead, so they are digging wells to pump up groundwater to save their farms.

“The future here, to be honest, I don’t want to say that, it’s pretty cloudy,” said Thelander.

Returning to Hoover Dam, facility manager Mark Cook has his own concerns. The dam’s hydropower output has fallen by nearly 25% due to a significant reduction in Lake Mead’s water volume.

Cook wanted to show off the new turbine blades he had just installed in Tracy. This turbine blade is designed to efficiently power at rapidly declining lake water levels. At some point, the dam can stop generating electricity altogether.

“Old number [for cutoff] The altitude was 1,050, but now we’ve reduced that number to 950, “says Cook. “So we bought 100 feet.”

Mr. Malroy said the rapidly declining reservoir could become a new normal. “Unless it is absolutely necessary, we will not change,” she said. “Now, when I look at this lake, I think the moment” absolutely necessary “has arrived.”

See also:

Sir David Attenborough, Climate Change: “Crime has been committed” (“60 minutes”)Climate turning points may have already been achieved, according to expertsMany climate change finally hits home (“Sunday morning”)The western United States may have plunged into the most severe drought in modern history

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