“Consider it a taste of the future: the fire, smoke, drought, dust and heat that have made life unpleasant and dangerous from Louisiana to Los Angeles. New records tell the tale: the biggest wildfire ever recorded in Arizona (538,049 acres), the biggest fire ever in New Mexico (156,600 acres), and the all-time worst fire year in Texas history (3,697,000 acres).
The fires were a function of drought. By the end of the summer, 2011 was the driest year of the 117 years on record for New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana, and the second driest for Oklahoma. Those fires also resulted from record heat. It was also the hottest summer ever recorded for New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, as well as the hottest August ever for those states.
Virtually every city in the region experienced unprecedented temperatures, with Phoenix, Arizona, as usual, leading the march towards unliveable conditions. This past summer, the so-called Valley of the Sun set a new record of 33 days when the mercury reached a shoe-melting 110 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. (The previous record of 32 days was set in 2007.)
And here’s the bad news in a nutshell: If you live in the Southwest or just about anywhere in the American West, you or your children and grandchildren could soon enough be facing the “Age of Thirst”, which may also prove to be the greatest water crisis in the history of civilisation. No kidding.
If that gets you down, here’s a little cheer-up note: The end is not yet nigh.
In fact, this year the weather elsewhere rode to the rescue, and the news for the Southwest was good where it really mattered. Since January, the biggest reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead, backed up by the Hoover Dam and just 30 miles southwest of Las Vegas, has risen almost 40 feet. That lake is crucial when it comes to watering lawns or taking showers from Arizona to California. And the near 40-foot surge of extra water offered a significant upward nudge to the Southwest’s water reserves.
The Colorado River, which the reservoir impounds, supplies all or part of the water on which nearly 30 million people depend, most of them living downstream of Lake Mead in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Tijuana, and scores of smaller communities in the US and Mexico.
Back in 1999, the lake was full. Patricia Mulroy, who heads the water utility serving Las Vegas, rues the optimism of those bygone days. ”We had a fifty-year, reliable water supply”, she says. “By 2002, we had no water supply. We were out. We were done. I swore to myself we’d never do that again.”
In 2000, the lake began to fall - like a boulder off a cliff, bouncing a couple of times on the way down. Its water level dropped a staggering 130 feet, stopping less than seven feet above the stage that would have triggered reductions in downstream deliveries. Then - and here’s the good news - last winter, it snowed prodigiously up north in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
The spring and summer run-off from those snowpacks brought enormous relief. It renewed what we in the Southwest like to call the “Hydro-Illogic” cycle: when drought comes, everybody wrings their hands and promises to institute needed reform, if only it would rain a little. Then the drought breaks or eases and we all return to business as usual, until the cycle comes around to drought again.
So don’t be fooled. One day, perhaps soon, Lake Mead will renew its downward plunge. That’s a given, the experts tell us. And here’s the thing: the next time, a sudden rescue by heavy snows in the northern Rockies might not come. If the snowpacks of the future are merely ordinary, let alone puny, then you’ll know that we really are entering a new age.
And climate change will be a major reason, but we’ll have done a good job of aiding and abetting it. The states of the so-called Lower Basin of the Colorado River - California, Arizona and Nevada - have been living beyond their water means for years. Any departure from recent decades of hydrological abundance, even a return to long-term average flows in the Colorado River, would produce a painful reckoning for the Lower Basin states. And even worse is surely on the way.
Just think of the coming Age of Thirst in the American Southwest and West as a three-act tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions.”
The Age of Thirst: Act I
- topazwoods reblogged this from climateadaptation
- freedomnotfound likes this
- hairyprincess reblogged this from amodernmanifesto
- elfboi reblogged this from amodernmanifesto
- nephastopheles reblogged this from socialuprooting
- davidthesith likes this
- polymathlete likes this
- sadomars likes this
- newsfrompoems reblogged this from climateadaptation and added:
- tamaraleach reblogged this from socialuprooting
- waycoolhacky likes this
- seriiously likes this
- etisiuqxe likes this
- abreathexhaledfromtheearth likes this
- twas-bryllyg reblogged this from littleblackkittycat and added:
- twas-bryllyg likes this
- littleblackkittycat reblogged this from truth-has-a-liberal-bias
- iamyoursoundtech likes this
- thetomblr likes this
- littleblackkittycat likes this
- newsandtrade reblogged this from socialuprooting
- amodernmanifesto reblogged this from socialuprooting
- inspirement reblogged this from socialuprooting
- thunderstormdance likes this
- amodernmanifesto likes this
- matilda3663 likes this
- truth-has-a-liberal-bias reblogged this from climateadaptation
- climate-changing likes this
- imprettycrafty likes this
- jipc likes this
- lifting-of-the-veil reblogged this from climateadaptation
- kp777 reblogged this from climateadaptation
- teacherlp reblogged this from climateadaptation and added:
- massurban likes this
- lame-ape reblogged this from climateadaptation
- hintofvanilla likes this
- bradleyson reblogged this from climateadaptation
- setecq likes this
- bronwynlewis likes this
- blankcanvasatrocity likes this
- bonedust likes this
- saltdaddy reblogged this from climateadaptation
- saltdaddy likes this
- ellisondubois likes this
- catabiosis likes this
- thegreenfireplace likes this
- climateadaptation posted this