The Colorado River, the High Plains aquifer and the entire Western half of the U.S. are rapidly drying up

May 25, 2013COLORADO What is life going to look like as our precious water resources become increasingly strained and the western half of the United States becomes bone dry? Scientists tell us that the 20th century was the wettest century in the western half of the country in 1000 years, and now things appear to be reverting to their normal historical patterns. But we have built teeming cities in the desert such as Phoenix and Las Vegas that support millions of people. Cities all over the Southwest continue to grow even as the Colorado River, Lake Mead and the High Plains Aquifer system run dry. So what are we going to do when there isn’t enough water to irrigate our crops or run through our water systems? Already we are seeing some ominous signs that Dust Bowl conditions are starting to return to the region.  In the past couple of years we have seen giant dust storms known as “haboobs” roll through Phoenix, and 6 of the 10 worst years for wildfires ever recorded in the United States have all come since the year 2000. In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, “the average number of fires larger than 1,000 acres in a year has nearly quadrupled in Arizona and Idaho and has doubled in every other Western state” since the 1970s. But scientists are warning that they expect the western United States to become much drier than it is now. What will the western half of the country look like once that happens? In a recent National Geographic article contained the following chilling statement…The wet 20th century, the wettest of the past millennium, the century when Americans built an incredible civilization in the desert, is over. Much of the western half of the country has historically been a desolate wasteland. We were very blessed to enjoy very wet conditions for most of the last century, but now that era appears to be over. To compensate, we are putting a tremendous burden on our fresh water resources. In particular, the Colorado River is becoming increasingly strained. 


Dust in the wind: Building unsustainable mega-cities in the western U.S., where water supplies were already scarce and now rapidly dwindling, just as demand is growing may be one of the greatest ecological blunders of the 20th century.
Ecosystem crash: Without the Colorado River, many of our largest cities simply would not be able to function. The following is from a recent Stratfor article: “The Colorado River provides water for irrigation of roughly 15 percent of the crops in the United States, including vegetables, fruits, cotton, alfalfa and hay. It also provides municipal water supplies for large cities, such as Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas, accounting for more than half of the water supply in many of these areas.” In particular, water levels in Lake Mead (which supplies most of the water for Las Vegas) have fallen dramatically over the past decade or so. The following is an excerpt from an article posted on Smithsonian: “And boaters still roar across Nevada and Arizona’s Lake Mead, 110 miles long and formed by the Hoover Dam. But at the lake’s edge they can see lines in the rock walls, distinct as bathtub rings, showing the water level far lower than it once was—some 130 feet lower, as it happens, since 2000. Water resource officials say some of the reservoirs fed by the river will never be full again.” Today, Lake Mead supplies approximately 85 percent of the water that Las Vegas uses, and since 1998 the water level in Lake Mead has dropped by about 5.6 trillion gallons. –TECB
contribution Irene
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27 Responses to The Colorado River, the High Plains aquifer and the entire Western half of the U.S. are rapidly drying up

  1. Fran says:

    Many of our smaller lakes in Northern Arizona are dried up and gone now…however, I have understood from hydrologists that there is in fact a very large reservoir of water in the aquifers of the west – it’s just that they are much deeper than people want to drill for cost reasons. I suspect that when water becomes as expensive as oil, deeper wells will find more water.


  2. james says:

    “A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.” Jeremiah 50:38.


  3. One thing that would help mitigate some of the strain on the western water system would be if people did away with their luxurious lawns and went with a more natural form of landscaping. The fact remains that the entire region is desert and scrub and not conducive to growing lawns without a lot of watering. Just look at Las Vegas: nearly everyone has a lawn, fountains splash gaily and golf courses abound, all in an area that would be bare desert otherwise. People’s insistence on having the same kind of landscaping found in wetter parts of the country is a major contributing factor to the overburdened western water system.


  4. suez says:

    I hope so Fran. It is really sad and scarey! I live in Iowa. In 2008 we were flooded bad. Last year we had a drought, and our ponds and rivers were drying up. This year we are again getting lots of rain. We have started to flood a little, but not badly. But now rain is forecast for 7 days. That frightens me. We are truly living in the last days, I believe!


    • Kwazai says:

      This may sound counter-intuitive, but a decade or so ago, wake county nc changed the way the water in Crabtree creek flows ten miles or so downstream to stop a mall from flooding. What I’ve seen is that areas that used to be green because of this flooding are now mostly browned out during the summer. What I’m beginning to believe is that much of the ‘ancient’ technology rain-catches in arid regions (india, pakistan, etc.) is essential and the ‘modern’ tech that has replaced it needs to adapt it’s ‘seasonal storage’ mentality. I do understand that ‘standing’ water has some disease issues associated with it so cisterns and other storage devices need to be looked at carefully.
      food for thought- (artificial spring?) (amazing how much this looks like the Leadville mine(s) superfund cleanup site)

      My own experience with my pvc hoop/poly greenhouse raining inside when the sun comes up makes me think along these lines- (boy scout manual?) (one would need to avoid legionairres disease water collection points however)

      I will be adding a 2nd, lightweight inner poly sheet to ‘catch’ the morning dew (watering drip feed) and provide a winter insulating space (Rutgers/Mears research).

      I’d also been following TVA in Tn- they seem determined not to build additional percolated catch ponds upstream of the lake/hydropower dam(s) and instead prefer a mudhole backwater region (spread out just above the dam(s)-guess its initially cheaper, flooding and all). They could use the leftover coal waste as raw materials for it too (ashcrete).
      I couldn’t locate the link, but there was an article about rain begating more rain in India on ScienceDaily.
      What I see is the most motivators are profit before abundance. Changing that is a one at a time thing.
      Go with God.


  5. Christopher says:

    desalanation plants are nessasary.


  6. John says:

    Move out of California while you still can.


  7. jeffrey says:

    We have not shown nearly enough respect for our natural resources to keep living lives of luxury and security. I remember working the the Tri-CIties area of Washington state (on Hanford). Nice desert country with lots of room to have an acre on nice lush grass in town. No water bills because of the Columbia river being right there and there were/ are canals right in your backyard. . I don’t think it has changed much in 10 years. Great quality of life but sustainable in no way.


  8. I have been addressing this situation directly by getting a solar panel supplier to talk to a water from air manufacturer so a clean air green power clean water package can be supplied when the sun shines the water flows. I don’t own either company I just put the pieces together. If you want some get in touch with me.


  9. Angelsong says:

    How fitting it is that you would post a picture from the movie “The Book of Eli”! I would highly recommend that members of the EP family watch it if they have not yet. Thanks once again for all you do, you are a beacon of light in this present dark world!


  10. kennycjr says:

    definitely agree chris, it amazes me that the southwest has gotten along so long without desalination plants. and what’s going to happen with water rights as water becomes more scarce? either water prices will skyrocket in the southwest, or they’ll just take all the water that’s currently reserved for farms, and food prices will skyrocket in the southwest.

    the last century has indeed been quite unique for much of the western and plains states. when lewis and clark explored the entire area, they described it as the great american desert. it’s no wonder why the plains indians were nomadic, following the buffalo herds. imho, that’s as much life as that area can permanently support.


    • Christopher says:

      Plus , we should have tunneled our canals underground, Immatate the Romans, less evaperation, and less cleaning at the valley treatment plants. Well Kenny, without desalination, our canals, and wells provide water. We need rain, I don’t see downpours like I saw as a kid, and the monsoon suposely will help. Sadly, I like other phoexician will duck from the haboos, but ask “where is the rain?”


  11. Sherry says:

    Last I heard, the Ogalala Aquifer was at 90%. So if the aquifer is going dry, we on the high plains are not being told.


  12. Emanni says:

    As Iraq runs dry, a plague of snakes is unleashed

    An unprecedented fall in the water levels of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has left the rural population at the mercy of heat, drought – and displaced wildlife. Patrick Cockburn reports

    The plague of snakes is the latest result of an unprecedented fall in the level of the water in the Euphrates and the Tigris, the two great rivers which for thousands of years have made life possible in the sun-baked plains of Mesopotamia, the very name of which means “between the rivers” in Greek. The rivers that made Iraq’s dry soil so fertile are drying up because the supply of water, which once flowed south into Iraq from Turkey, Syria and Iran, is now held back by dams and used for irrigation. On the Euphrates alone, Turkey has five large dams upriver from Iraq, and Syria has two.


  13. Emanni says:

    Most populace nation in the world

    2nd most populace nation in the world

    The Mississippi
    US – third most populace nation in the world

    5th most populace nation in the world

    Former Soviet Union – South-East Russia
    Aral Sea


  14. Terry says:

    I live in the southwest and our city water bill just had a 5% increase. We previously dug up our backyard and removed the grass to help save on water.


    • Terry, your very sensible efforts to reduce your water usage by getting rid of the lawn is highly commendable and should be repeated often by all who live in the Southwest. Tens of millions of people trying to maintain luxurious lawns in a desert is unsustainable; as I am fond of saying, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. I applaud your decision.


  15. feywit says:

    I live on the eastern plains of Colorado. The mountain snow melting eastward toward the plains has already dried up. The single river that runs thru this area is already dry. Our reservoirs are already half empty. Last year corn, wheat, soy, alfalfa crops never matured and the farmers plowed crops under in July. The wildfires throughout this area were terrifying. In this open area 10,000 acres can burn in an hour. If we have 100 degrees every day thru the summer like we did last year, crops and cattle will fail through Colo., Nebraska, Wyoming and Kansas. Unless Some places like Iowa continue to receive rains, We could have the unthinkable, famine right here in our own country.


  16. niebo says:

    “And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The LORD shall make the rain of thy land POWDER AND DUST: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.” Deuteronomy 28:23-24

    Sounds like the, er, “atmospheric aerosol” program at work . . . . There are reports of weather-manipulation from all over the world, but in the pursuit of “legitimate” sources to provide as links on this topic, I have NEVER encountered so many dead (“404 error”, “page missing”, “article not found”) links in a 24 hour period. Now, I ain’t sayin’ it’s a conspiracy to suppress this info but, well, it IS an interesting coincidence (especially when the majority of the dead are related to scientific test results from actual soil-and-water samples):

    A small but decent picture of the “brass” sky:

    I also checked the archives at NOAA, and when you compare the links provided, an interesting pattern develops (pseudo-doppler waveform) in relation to the hydrological impact (actual groundwater levels) in recent years in the regions of the Northwest, West, and West North Central; in addition, the Southeast shares a similar pattern, but when you plot the same data from other regions (all are provided on the site), the results are quite varied. . . .


    • Emanni says:


      here’s some more info on your topic.

      Retired USDA Biologist Francis Mangels on Geoengineering – FULL HD


      • Liliputia says:

        I sent this video to about 15 Million subscribers (biz + politix = excellent mix today!!!) on my popular business site. There were some, that wanted to kill me. 🙂 and some that insulted me in all kinds of ways, usually the insecure loser types that earn money from sucking up to toxic industries. The response from military industrial complex was that they will make sure my business is no more. Heheheh.


  17. Thanks Alvin, this is rather disturbing, but then the earth is changing and changing fast, and prophecy is being fulfilled. We’re in for a wild ride. I re-blogged this manually. Thanks for keep us up to date. Stay safe, and God be with you!


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