Sunday, June 25, 2023

My bucket's got a hole in it

Prime waterfront property, Stewart's Point, Nevada.

The view from Stewart's Point.

As to Lake Mead, the story of the 23-year drought is much like Lake Powell's. Each reservoir dipped to its low point in late April. I had read that they were at 26% of capacity then but the boat captain on my Lake Powell excursion told me it was 23% at its low ebb. Landmasses that are now islands were land bridges on April 23. You could walk across parts of the lakes. And narrow channels such as Navajo Canyon at Lake Powell couldn’t be navigated at all. At high water the captain’s favorite diving platform was a rock pillar rising 15 feet out of the lake and in June after two months of foot a day gains it was still 80 feet above us in the boat.

Hoover Dam.

The Colorado River upriver.

Lake Mead’s pattern was a carbon copy. It had gained more than sixty feet of water from the record snowmelt, but the situation is still desperate. According to experts it would take five years of snowfall like we had the past winter for the lake to reach the level it enjoyed forty years before.

The bathtub ring and a cantilevered dock at the water level in 1983. Today it's 185 feet lower as this photograph plainly shows.

Exposed islands from Echo Cove. All that is light colored was once under water.

The dark depression reaching into the desert was once a navigable inlet.

It doesn’t take much imagination to visualize the lakes 185 feet higher in 1983. The bathtub rings so evident in this post would disappear and all but the tallest islands would be under water. The water levels would have been nearly as high as the dams.

Lake Mead differs from Lake Powell in one major way. It’s inhabited along its shore because much of it is private land. Whereas Lake Powell is surrounded by the Navajo Nation. In fact, the land for the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell was acquired in a land swap in the Fifties in return for an enormous patch of desert in Utah just above what would became Lake Powell. My nod to that lakeside population is an abandoned hovel at the northernmost reaches of Lake Mead, Stewart’s Point. There were five dwellings there, three inhabited.

This post is meant to underscore the sad fact that after two months of rising water levels Lake Mead is still a parched patch of Mojave Desert on the outskirts of Las Vegas. In mid-June the place was flirting with 100 degrees and desert coves and inlets once under water were mostly sand traps.

As a recent headline says, the recent gift of water, “is a drop in the bucket.”

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

Stewart's Point waterfront property tells it all, doesn't it? The Southwestern deserts in the United States are full of such things as water rises and wains, and climate changes. Your blog was an excellent lesson in how precious water is in these parts, and how even an amazingly wet winter, as this one was, is simply not enough to replace what really took decades to build. We have an interesting century ahead and I hope that the Earth doesn't go the way of Easter Island where every last tree was cut down before it occurred to people that there were no more. Thank you for demonstrating the physical changes in the planet when we utilize too much water, and other materials.