The western United States is facing one of the worst droughts in its history.
It has been a few years now that the western United States has had to face increasingly long and precocious periods without precipitation. This year looks like one of the most severe.
Symbols if there is one in this part of the country, the Hoover Dam. This construction, completed in 1935, is 221 meters high and 379 meters long. Located on the border between the states of Arizona and Nevada, the dam is intended to retain water from the Colorado River and feeds Lake Mead which is considered the largest reservoir in the country with nearly 33 km3.
However, officials in charge of the dam report that Lake Mead continues to dry up, as does Lake Powell located nearby. Since 2000, the water level has fallen by 43 meters and the lake is only 37% of its full capacity; the lowest level since its inception. This unprecedented situation will most certainly lead the authorities to declare the very first official shortage.
This drought induced by climate change is of great concern. Indeed, the dam supplies a large surrounding urban area and contributes to the irrigation of agriculture. The higher the temperatures, the greater the use of water resources. This vicious and dangerous circle leads engineers and hydrologists to think deeply about the management of the dam that should be adopted now. The outlook does not look bright. With readings showing ever worse data, the coming summer season promises to be perilous and is likely to bring the water level below the critical threshold established by the federal government. According to the latest projections, this is expected to occur in August resulting, for the first time, in water restrictions in the states of Nevada, Arizona and Mexico.
Water stress is felt throughout the region and an expert reports that the soils are so dry that even when the water, from melting snow in the Rockies arrives, it is immediately sucked in as if it were a sponge. Conditions that could be worse in 2023 if the drought continues.
According to experts, it would take 3 to 4 consecutive years of particularly abundant precipitation to hope to fill Lakes Powell and Mead to acceptable levels. But when you consider that over the last 22 years, 17 have been drought and only 5 have experienced above-average rainfall levels, you can understand the concerns.
This "mega drought" decreed by the authorities since May 10, can give rise to surprising measures such as that taken by the California Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, which decided to protect chinook salmon by making them reach the Pacific Ocean by tanker trucks. Streams that are too low and water temperatures that are too hot could complicate their natural migration and threaten the species.
The state of chronic drought in the western United States poses serious threats to the entire ecosystem as well as to the economy of more than 40 states. The gigantic fires devastate the forests and offer spectacles of desolation.
Global temperatures must stop rising. If they are not contained within the globally set levels and if the rains do not return quickly in the coming months, restrictions and exceptional measures will increase not only in the United States but also in many parts of the world.