July 7, 2014 Leave a Comment
Lake Mead, well known to Colorado River rafters as the terminus of their great three week adventure, and not so well known to millions as the source of their water, is reaching a record this week, and probably not stopping there.
The last time Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, reached maximum capacity was 1983. This week the lake, located along the Colorado River near Las Vegas, Nevada, is expected to reach a new milestone — its lowest point ever.
Formed by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead has been suffering for years as an expansive drought across the West, coupled with rising temperatures and populations, has overstressed the massive man-made body of water. According to forecasts from the federal Bureau of Reclamation, water levels will fall this week to their lowest since it was first filled in 1937. The lake, which provides water for 20 million people across the Southwest has been losing water for over a decade and is currently at about 40 percent capacity.
Among those who will be affected as the lake shrinks more and more will be plenty of climate change deniers, who in their wisdom, will blame the federal government for conspiratorially siphoning off millions of gallons of water for nefarious purposes and depriving Mr. and Mrs. Ostrich of their right to get what they want!
Can’t we start a class-action suit for damages caused by obstinate idiocy?
And the American southwest of course is only a small part of the problem. A 2013 comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences says what’s ugly now is only going to get uglier.
…even modest climate change might drastically affect the living conditions of billions of people, whether through water scarcity, crop shortages or extremes of weather.
The group warns that water is the biggest worry. If the world warms by just 2 °C above the present level, which now seems all but unavoidable by 2100, up to one-fifth of the global population could suffer severe shortages.
“Water and all that relies on it, from food to sanitation and public health, is an emblematic aspect of climate change whose urgency people tend to instantly understand,” says Schellnhuber.
Regions most at risk from water scarcity include parts of the southern United States, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. By contrast, India, tropical Africa and high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere can expect to receive more water in a warming world.
drought conditions are likely to become more frequent and severe in some parts of South America, western and central Europe, central Africa and Australia, another project team reports3.
Uncertainty, adds Schellnhuber, is no excuse for inaction. “Those who might say, ‘Come back when you’ve narrowed down the risk’ should be reminded that climate change is a treacherous gamble,” he says. “We don’t quite know the odds, but the chance of losing heavily might be a lot bigger than many tend to think.”