Megadrought in the West


Photo of Lake Powel, depicting where the original water level was. Photo by Win.

Winslow Duerk, Reporter

          The Colorado River is depleting. Over the past decade, the nation’s two largest reservoirs connected to the Colorado River, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, have receded to record lows. 

     Since the beginning of the 21st century, Lake Powell and Lake Mead have dropped over five trillion gallons of water, according to CNN. The 21-year warming and drying process has left the Colorado River watershed parched, leaving those relying on the water questioning  what to do. 

     The continued dry years across the west have made it apparent that there is too much demand on the river’s water supply, and drastic steps must be taken in order to provide water to the largest users of the river’s water supply like California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

     How have we gotten to this point? Other than increased carbon emissions leading to worse and worse droughts, management of the Colorado River has been set up for failure ever since the installation of the Glen Canyon Dam. 

     The dam was authorized for construction by the Colorado River Storage project in 1954. Seven years and 300 million dollars later, the dam was finished to provide electricity for the town of Page, Arizona according to Kenyon University. 

     Not only was it poor practice to put a dam in the middle of a desert, but the Colorado River has separated from its natural state of being a sediment rich river. A UC Davis study says this has disrupted the natural ecosystem for fish species, as the sediment that had provided for their habitat is now sitting at the bottom of Lake Powell. 

     With the ongoing drought bringing up such a grim and slow moving crisis for the communities relying on the Colorado River water supply, water managers, farmers and city planners have clearly been able to identify the problem, but have not yet been forced to change water usage. The Colorado River is unable to meet all the demands of Midwest communities, and it’s up to its biggest users to decide who has to rely on it less.