Sunday, June 18, 2023

High and Dry

Across Lake Powell from Lake Powell Marina is a 100 feet of bathtub ring that was 60feet higher in late April

I just got back from a four-day photo safari to Lake Powell and Lake Mead. My purpose was to show the record low water levels in each reservoir and to write a story about the desperate situation. I have printed three inches of news reports about the historically low water levels and the need for conserving our water reserves. Thankfully on May 22, 2023, California, Nevada, and Arizona signed an agreement to reduce water use by 3-million-acre feet by 2026. Yet, according to many scientists this goal is far shy of the conservation a twenty three year drought demands.

Here's the Glen Canyon Dam from Page. The last bucket of concrete was poured in 1963 and the project was completed in 1966

The 710 foot dam from Lans Smith's speedboat. Note the white ring to your left. That shows the waterline when the lake was at capacity 46 years ago.

I delayed my trip far too long. Lake Powell and Lake Mead reached their lowest water levels ever on April 23, 2023. That’s when Lake Mead was at 26 percent of capacity and was just 35 feet above Deadpool. Deadpool is the water level below which the dams can no longer release water into the Colorado River. I should have photographed the two manmade lakes when the situation was most dire. Alas, I didn’t.

The gorge of the Colorado River just above the dam.

This rock face deep in Antelope Canyon shows the high water mark more than 100 feet above the water's surface.

Since April 23 the water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead have risen about one foot per day. So, the so-called bathtub ring on July 8 when these photographs were taken was more than 60 feet lower and a helluva lot less impressive than six weeks ago. The same is true at Lake Mead. Assuming Lake Powell’s so-called bathtub ring was 170 feet high in late April, it may be 100 feet now. And the water level will continue to rise through the summer. This is good news in the short term but conserving the water is still critical. I’m dumbfounded that California curtailed its water conservation requirements when saving today’s abundant water stores for the drought that’s certain to come was the common-sense choice. It’s clearly playing to public sentiment which is weary of conserving water. While the state had been asking for a 15% reduction in water usage its citizens delivered a resounding 7%. It’s a lackluster result. Golf courses, lawns, almond orchards, and alfalfa fields ae thirsty beasts. It doesn’t bode well for water conservation in the future.

Today I’ll speak to Lake Powell. The reservoir was created the Glen Canyon Dam which was completed in 1966. The dam and I go way back. Peggy and I visited Page, Arizona with our friends Linda Penny and Chuck Fridenmaker in 1963. I remember little about the construction of the dam and couldn’t tell you what drew us to Page or the dam. I do remember that there were three blocks of churches and a liquor store for every church. That, I can report hasn’t changed a bit.

Happily, we made good use of the first liquor store on our right as we entered town. We bought a six pack of Guinness Stout and drank it in the car in July. Call it 110 in the shade. That thick brew erupts from its bottle in those conditions I’ll tell you that. I wore more than I drank. 


Blacks Crossing said...

A treat to see your images of Lake Powell this morning. Water or none, the entire area is quite amazing. Your first shot of Glen Canyon dam is terrific, and the photograph of the Gorge above the Colorado says so much about the American west. Humans are extremely proficient at denial, and water usage in California and throughout the west is a perfect example of that. The number of golf courses is ridiculous and the explosion of almond orchards in the past thirty years is, well, I cannot find the words. They use a tremendous amount of water. Will anything or anyone be able to curtail the thirst? I do not know but am certainly glad you were able to make this photographic sojourn and you are sharing it with us.

John Ellsworth said...

Wow. Well done!