Tag Archives: Western US

What Will The Western Half Of The United States Look Like During “The Second Dust Bowl”? by Michael Snyder

Historically the western US has had extended droughts, and it may be embarking on another one. From Michael Snyder at themostimportantnews.com:

Scientists have begun using the term “megadrought” to describe the multi-year drought that has been plaguing the western half of the country, and now we are being told that it looks like 2021 will be the worst year of this “megadrought” so far by a wide margin.  That is extremely troubling news, because major water reservoirs have already dropped to dangerously low levels, some farmers have been told that they will not be allowed to use any water at all this year, and the dust storms in the western U.S. are becoming so large that they can actually be seen from space.  This is a major national crisis, and it is only going to get worse.

As you can see from the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map, nearly the entire western half of the nation is experiencing some level of drought at this moment.

But even more alarming is the fact that much of that territory is currently in one of the three most serious levels of drought

A year ago, about 4% of the West was in a severe drought. Now, about 58% of the West is classified as being in a severe, extreme or exceptional drought.

As conditions just get drier and drier, many farmers have become deeply concerned about what that will mean for growing season in 2021.

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Over Half The U.S. Has Now Been Hit By Drought As Lake Powell And Lake Mead Drop To “Dangerous” Low Levels, by Michael Snyder

The western US is running out of fresh water. From Michael Snyder at endoftheamericandream.com:

The worst drought in years in the western half of the United States has sparked hundreds of wildfires, has crippled thousands of farms, and has produced what could ultimately be the worst water crisis in modern American history.  As you will see below, Lake Powell and Lake Mead have both dropped to dangerously low levels, and officials are warning that we may soon be looking at a substantial shortfall which would require rationing.  Unfortunately, many in the eastern half of the country don’t even realize that this is happening.  The mighty Colorado River once seemed to be virtually invulnerable, but now it doesn’t even run all the way to the ocean any longer.  Demand for water is continually increasing as major cities in the Southwest continue to grow, and this is happening at a time when that entire region just keeps getting drier and drier.  To say that we are facing a “water crisis” would be a major understatement.

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A Structural Drought in the US Southwest? by Erico Matias Tavares

Water in the southwest may become a much more precious commodity. From Erico Matias Tavares of Sinclair & Co. at linked in.com:

Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the US, supplying water to Arizona, Southern California, southern Nevada and northern Mexico. As such, its levels can provide a useful indication of the water situation in the US Southwest. And the picture right now is anything but comforting.

At 1073ft above sea level, the July reading at the Hoover Dam was the lowest elevation since the reservoir was filled in the late 1930s, lower even than the first threshold (1075ft) that triggers emergency rationing measures across several states.

However, the crucial measurement is not the current level but the mid-August assessment by the Bureau of Reclamation for 1 January 2017. And if it is below that threshold an official water shortage at Lake Mead will be declared.

As indicated by the box in the graph above, the latest January estimate suggests that cutbacks may be avoided this time around – if only barely. But the bigger picture clearly shows a relentless decline in water levels at Lake Mead since the start of the millennium, with no indication of a reversal.

As less water falls from the sky more has to be pumped from the ground to meet demand. Back in July 2014 a study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, estimated that the Colorado River Basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater – almost double the volume of Lake Mead – in just nine years. More than 75 percent of that loss came from underground resources. And because nobody really knows how much groundwater is left, it is impossible to accurately predict when that resource (which in many cases took thousands of years to form) will run out.

What appears much more certain is that things might get even more challenging given the current climatic factors at play. The Western US is just coming off one of the strongest El Niño seasons, which typically brings more wetness to the region. Some major reservoirs in California got a boost as a result (although much more is needed going forward). Those seasons tend to be followed by La Niñas that can generate the opposite effect. So the odds are stacked in favor of less moisture over the foreseeable future, not more (although anything can happen).

Indeed, according to official estimates there’s no letup in sight for the drought afflicting most of the US West, as shown in the graph above. Therefore, the region is going into this period already in a debilitated condition.

What will happen once that first threshold level at Lake Mead is reached?

Immediate water rationing based on recent interstate agreements, hitting Arizona first and with the hardest reduction in its allocation from Lake Mead: 13%. While the impact might be mitigated by accessing some storage facilities, Arizona farmers for one would for sure feel the pinch. Next in line would be Nevada with a 4% reduction. California would not get any cuts at that threshold, but residents that directly depend on this supply, especially in the Los Angeles area, could materially suffer from lower volumes delivered.

That part of the US has gone through massive droughts before and perhaps all of this can be managed over time with some socially acceptable adjustments.

To continue reading: A Structural Drought in the US Southwest?