Waterless World

A Global Water Crisis Forum


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Reaching A New Low

The Associated Press reports that water levels in Lake Mead in Nevada have dropped to the lowest level since it was originally filled in the 1930s,  leaving Las Vegas facing existential threats unless something is done. Las Vegas and its 2 million residents and 40 million tourists a year get almost all their drinking water from the Lake and at levels below 1075ft (the level is currently several inches below that mark), the Interior Department will be forced to declare a “shortage,” which will lead to significant cutbacks for Arizona and Nevada.

The lake is now approximately 37% of capacity and features a distinctive white mineral bathtub ring that demonstrates the 130 feet in surface level that has been lost since the turn of the century.

From USA Today:

The downward march of the reservoir near Las Vegas reflects enormous strains on the over-allocated Colorado River. Its flows have decreased during 16 years of drought, and climate change is adding to the stresses on the river

As the levels of Lake Mead continue to fall, the odds are increasing for the federal government to declare a shortage in 2018, a step that would trigger cutbacks in the amounts flowing from the reservoir to Arizona and Nevada. With that threshold looming, political pressures are building for California, Arizona and Nevada to reach an agreement to share in the cutbacks in order to avert an even more severe shortage.

As population growth and heavy demand for water collide with hotter temperatures and reduced snowpack in the future, there will be an even greater mismatch between supply and demand, said Kelly Sanders, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in water and energy issues.

“The question becomes how to resolve this mismatch across states that all depend on the river to support their economic growth,” Sanders said. She expects incentives and markets to help ease some of the strains on water supplies, “but it is going to be tricky to make the math work in the long term.”


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When the Rain Doesn’t Fall on the Plain, You Do This

India Drought

Several years of weak monsoon seasons has left India in the midst of an extraordinary drought, requiring extraordinary measures.  In this case, diverting water from rivers across the country to areas hardest hit by the lack of water.  From the BBC:

India is set to divert water from its rivers to deal with a severe drought, a senior minister has told the BBC.

Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said transferring water, including from major rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Ganges, to drought-prone areas is now her government’s top priority. 

At least 330 million people are affected by drought in India.

The drought is taking place as a heat wave extends across much of India, with temperatures in excess of 40C.

The Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) has 30 links planned for water-transfer, 14 of them fed by Himalayan glaciers in the north of the country and 16 in peninsular India.

Environmentalists have opposed the project, arguing it will invite ecological disaster but the Supreme Court has ordered its implementation. 

“Interlinking of rivers is our prime agenda and we have got the people’s support and I am determined to do it on the fast track,” Ms Bharti said.

“We are going ahead with five links [of the rivers] now and the first one, the Ken-Betwa link [in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh] is going to start any time now.

“And then we will have the Damnaganga-Pinjal interlink which will sort out the Mumbai drinking water facility.” 

Ms Bharti said the river-linking project would be the first in Indian history since independence in 1947.

There were also other projects aimed at supplying water for irrigation and drinking in the next few years and the ILR was a long-term scheme, she added.

Following two consecutive bad monsoons, India is facing one of its worst droughts.

Of its 29 states, nearly half were reported to have suffered from severe water crisis this dry season. The worst hit have been Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, among others.

The federal government in Delhi has had to send trains carrying water to the worst affected places.

India has faced a water crisis for years. Its ground waters have depleted to alarming levels, mainly because of unsustainable extraction for agriculture and industries.