Will Lake Mead Evaporate By the Year 2021?
Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have asserted that it is fifty per cent likely that Lake Mead will end up going completely dry within 13 years, or by the year 2021.
Lake Mead, which hedges the border between both Arizona and Nevada, was originally created with help from the Colorado River as well as the Hoover Dam. Tim Barnett and David Pierce, the researchers responsible for the study’s assertion, argue that the cause can be attributed to climate change and the increase in human demand for water.
Lake Mead, Lake Powell and Impending Doom
Between Lake Mead and Lake Powell (bordering both Arizona and Utah), aqueducts stem out and carry water from these systems to a variety of important and notable cities in the western United States and Southwestern communities. These include Los Angeles and Las Vegas, in addition to many others.
Further negative assertions from the recent study include that as early as 2017, we are at a fifty-fifty chance of the reservoir dropping to a depth that is low enough to prevent the Hoover Dam from producing its storehouse of hydroelectric power. The parties responsible for the study have suggested that water conservation policies and technologies need to be instituted now, in order to prevent the worst case scenario.
The Dominoes That Fall Given the Decline of Lake Mead
Lake Mead is man-made; its drying up or total disappearance would set off a domino of negative scenarios in that region of the States. Beyond just the supply of water to major cities and communities in that part of the country, power from the water source and its systems also keeps the lights on in those cities. Doomsday scenarios suggest a picture of a major city like Los Angeles or Las Vegas, on the hottest of hot summer days, with the air conditioner barely working and insufficient water emanating from the tap in the kitchens of every household. Not a pretty picture, by any stretch.
Barnett urged in a recent statement that “…this water problem is not a scientific abstraction, but rather one that will impact each and every one of us that live in the Southwest,” and further added that “we are at or beyond the sustainable limit of the Colorado system.” It should be noted that the water level of Lake Mead has been steadily dropping for years.
Further Negative Implications of Lake Mead by 2014
The negative version of this already potentially bleak picture, according to the study, is that by 2014, with a ten percent chance of probability, Lake Mead could go dry. Interested parties will be able to view the full report, published in Water Resources Research (a journal of the American Geophysical Union).
For conducting the study on Lake Mead, the researchers used material and figures stemming from the last one hundred years. This data included rates of evaporation, predictions of climate, demand for water, projections of future water levels and demands, and more. Worst part? The researchers claim the potentially disastrous findings are weighted to the conservative side.
Breaking Down the Bad News on Lake Mead
In terms of raw, actual numbers, the Colorado River system (of which Lakes Mead and Powell are both a part) is running a one million acre feet per year deficit. This unit of measurement (one acre foot of water) equates to the amount of water that it takes to cover an acre of land by a foot; this represents enough water for eight million people, as well. With the predictions in mind regarding the reduction and evaporation or decline of Lake Mead, the water supply of as many as thirty-six million people could be affected.
The bad news on top of the bad news? Given mitigation factors and conservation efforts (which currently exist in a minor capacity but would need to be increased dramatically and then implemented across the board), the researchers behind the study urged that even these measures just might not be adequate to protect the Southwest portion of the United States from drought and water-shortage problems.