What are the chances that Lake Mead, a key source of water for more than 22 million people in the Southwest, would ever go dry? A new study says it’s 50 percent by 2021 if warming continues and water use is not curtailed.
“We were stunned at the magnitude of the problem and how fast it was coming at us,” co-author Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said in a statement. “Make no mistake, 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.”
“It's likely to mean real changes to how we live and do business in this region,” added co-author David Pierce, a Scripps climate scientist.
Oh, and if you think this is a worst-case scenario, the authors say, not at all:
The researchers also noted that their estimates are conservative — in other words, the water shortage is likely to be even more dire than they estimate. The conservative approach included basing their findings on:
• The premise that warming effects only started in 2007, though most experts consider human-caused warming to have likely started decades earlier.
• Averaging river flow over the past 100 years, even though it has dropped in recent decades.
If you allow for today’s waterflow and an earlier start to global warming, here’s what the results actually could be, they say:
• A 10 percent chance that Lake Mead could be dry by 2014.
• A 50 percent chance that reservoir levels will drop too low to allow hydroelectric power generation by 2017.
• The system could still run dry even if recently proposed mitigation measures are implemented.
Speaking of Abbey, can we get the Monkey Wrench Gang to blow up Hoover Dam instead of Glen Canyon Dam at that point, since there will no longer be a need for it?