Anyone paying the least bit attention knows the west is drying up faster than a prune in a dehydrator. We’re in the midst of an extended major drought, we’re depleting huge amounts of groundwater to try to make up for the lack of rain water and snow melt and to fill our reservoirs and all of that is only making matter worse.
The Huffingpost ran a recent piece titled Lake Mead Drops To Lowest Levels Ever As 14-Year Drought Plagues Southwest. If the headline doesn’t convince, they also provide some compelling pictures. Here’s one
As this photo shows, the water level in Lake Mead has dropped; indeed, it’s dropped 130 feet since 2000.
That puts the lake at less than 40% full, the lowest it’s been since it was first filled in the 1930s. And Lake Powell isn’t fairing any better. That a huge loss of water for consumption and irrigating animals and crops that is simply no longer available to millions of people and acreage in the west.
To keep Lake Mead and other reservoirs in the west from drying up entirely, western states have been pumping oyt groundwater to the extent that those supplies are being depleted six times faster than surface water according to a recent study by NASA and the University of California using satellite data. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal (unfortunately a pay to read site), the study determined that from 2004 to 2013 the Colorado River basin lost 17 trillion gallons of water; three-fourths of that was groundwater.
What we’re losing underground will take thousands of years to be replenished naturally, and that’s if our weather pattern returns to something we recognize as normal. Clearly this process isn’t sustainable. We’re killing the very system that’s made it possible for human settlement in the arid desert regions. When things are in balance, the ground water feeds many of the streams and rivers in the area; no groundwater means dry rivers and streams. Whether we burn up or die of dehydration is an open question. Or, we might starve first.
As California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming continue drying up, so does much of our food supply; the majority of our grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and meat come from this area and the mid-west which is also in the midst of an extended drought.
Add to this the droughts in China and other area across the globe and you can begin to see the breadth of the problem.
Is this the new “normal”? There’s no consensus here, but consider this: the ice caps are melting faster than ever, the size and frequency of tornadoes and hurricanes are on the increase, and now many scientists are concerned that we may be at the beginning of this planet’s sixth mass extinction. Unlike the previous extinction events which were “driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity.”
Anyone have a few million gallons of water I can borrow plus several million life forms?