US’s second-largest dam in danger of prolonged drought

A 20-year drought in the American west caused the second-largest dam in the US to decline to a record low. The arid Lake Powell in the American Southwest is in danger because of the low water level in the artificial lake for the hydroelectric power needed for millions of homes. This is a picture of deteriorating water supplies in the American West due to climate change.

Arizona’s Glen Canyon Dam delivers hydroelectric power (hydropower) to 5 million customers in seven US states. But clean and renewable electricity is now under threat. The water level is very low after more than 20 years of drought.

The hotter climate makes the arid West America drier. So the most important water source in the West, the Colorado River, is shrinking.

The Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona is a source of electricity for millions of Americans in the west (photo: doc).

The Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona is a source of electricity for millions of Americans in the west (photo: doc).

Water expert Michael Cohen of the Pacific Institute said, “Without this reservoir of water, this regular, reliable and safe supply of water, the American West would not thrive.”

Major cities including Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego drink water from Colorado. Altogether the reservoir supports about 40 million people, and irrigates more than 2 million hectares of agricultural land.

“Dams are a multibillion dollar economic engine that is becoming increasingly unreliable. We thought this water would be available here but it’s getting less and less,” Cohen continued.

Water experts predict climate change will make rivers shrink. Jennifer Gimbel, head of the Colorado Water Center at Colorado State University, said: “What we didn’t know was how fast the water was running out. And that’s a warning now.”

The water level in Lake Mead, which holds water from the Colorado River, has decreased due to the long dry season (photo: doc).

The water level in Lake Mead, which holds water from the Colorado River, has decreased due to the long dry season (photo: doc).

Arizona farmers took their first water supply last year. Agriculture uses about 70% of river water. Farmers are under increasing pressure from developing cities that need more water. This is the source of problems between urban and rural areas.

Michael Cohen of the Pacific Institute adds, “In many cities, despite rapid economic and population growth, they are using less water than they were 20, 30 years ago. So what we are seeing in many cities, this is an ethical shift in conserving water. .”

But that’s not enough. Reservoir water continues to decline and forecasters predict another dry season will occur. [ps/lt]