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One hundred-fifty feet from disaster

The crisis on the Colorado River is getting worse, yet leaders still fail to implement solutions.

Opinion by Ava Rosate, Staff Writer

Lakeview Overlook sits atop the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Clark County, Nevada. August 15, 2022. (Ava Rosate/Valley Star)

Due to being mismanaged, abused and over estimated, the Colorado River’s water level has dropped dangerously low since 2000. If the level sinks 150 more feet, 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of vital agricultural fields will lose their water source.

Politicians and state officials must move quicker than the receding water line if they want a fraction of hope for the mere conservation of remaining water.

The main source of drinking water and hydroelectricity for Southern Californians comes directly from the dying source, but officials aren't batting an eye. As the owner of the oldest and largest rights to the water, California should be spearheading the effort to save its most precious resource.

“Here in Los Angeles I think the goal should be to increase the recycling of water, stormwater capture and groundwater replenishment,” said Valley College geography professor George Leddy. “Los Angeles is using the same amount of water we did in the late 1980s with a large increase in population. All the measures at conservation work.”

When the reservoirs sink 150 more feet, a state of “dead pool'' will occur — when water contained by Hoover Dam is so low it is unable to flow through intake towers, thus ceasing turbine activity resulting in the catastrophic failure of all hydroelectric and water production.

The negligence from the Bureau of Reclamation and officials in the states the river flows through was obvious in June when they were pressed with two options: come up with a collective deal to increase water conservation, or face unprecedented cutbacks left to the discretion of the Bureau. When the states failed to cut a deal, the department’s threat of severe cutbacks never materialized.

The history of mismanaging and grossly overestimating the water flow of the river goes back 100 years, when the seven states on the basin formed a water usage pact. Evidence was presented to politicians in 1916 stating the river’s supplies were “not sufficient to irrigate all the irrigable lands lying within the basin,” according to Grist, a non-profit media organization.

A small boat donned "Blown Away" pulls into the dock at the Lake Mead floating pier and boat launch. August 15, 2022. Clark County, Nevada. (Ava Rosate/Valley Star)

The term profit over people, reins true when acknowledging former state officials prioritized the monetary gain the river would bring at the time instead of the livelihood of future generations.

When the turbines stop running and the water stagnates, look to California’s own Salton

Sea for a glimpse of what the river’s future can hold. A “Mad Max”-esque hellscape with toxic water, dead fish and harmful air. The Salton Sea was an offshoot of The Colorado — described as an endorheic lake, its waters never drained to the ocean; they either seep into the ground or evaporate. Its demise was met when the salinity levels rose due to the stagnant water evaporating. Along with salinity, agricultural runoff poisoned the lake which quickly catapulted the situation into what it is today.

The death of the Colorado is increasingly inevitable. If California can instate major water cutbacks to regions that profit from the river, eradicate the use of nonessential water and declare a state of emergency, there may be hope. Until then, the decline of the lifeblood that sustains millions of people will continue.


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