Lake Meade levels paint a frightening picture

We’ve experienced drought in the Lehigh Valley: crops have shriveled, lawns turned brown, sometimes wells even went dry.

But the drought in the Southwest is like nothing we’ve seen here; at least not in our lifetimes. They’ve had 14 years of a dry so severe it’s left Lake Meade – the largest reservoir in the U.S. — half empty.

This year, the lake reached its lowest level since it was topped off in 1937 — one year after the completion of the Hoover Dam.  

Image courtesy Kumar Appaiah/Wikipedia
Image courtesy Kumar Appaiah/Wikipedia

 While that’s sobering enough, the bad news gets worse. According to a Los Angeles Times story, researchers used satellite data to track total water losses from 2004 to 2013. Based on what they’ve found, they think more than 75% of the region’s total water loss was from groundwater supplies. So what we’re seeing in Lake Meade is literally just scratching the surface.

To put the loss into perspective, a story from High Country News states that over the last nine years,  groundwater pumped from the Colorado River Basin could have filled Lake Mead nearly twice.

It’s a frightening revelation, and one that should make all of us think about how much water we use — and waste — every day. There’s a finite amount of our most precious liquid available. Conservation after the fact may alleviate the problem, but it is not the solution. 

We all need to do our part however we can — by taking shorter showers, using rain barrels, installing low-flow toilets, fixing leaks, and finding ways to conserve now.

Because if we wait too long, one day we could find ourselves up a dry, cracked creek bed without a paddle.