By Jack Curtis

Some things you might know, and things you may not know about water and river basins. We all use water and take for granted that it will always be there. For the last last few hundred years it has slowly been disappearing here in the southwest in greater quantities. The reason is more usage, less snow pack in the western region mountains, and increased evaporation due to more severe droughts. It’s difficult to get people and industry to use less water. We know about the droughts because scientists have studied tree rings for years, and the rings indicate that year after year the droughts get a little longer and dryer. Droughts are also affected by climate change that also gets a little worse each year. Some of the gases that cause climate change started eons ago with the very first living insects and animals. Every living body with a digestive system emits gases. When humans started building things, anything that generated smoke and fume particulates added to the change in climate.

The Colorado River Basin, as opposed to the “Colorado River”, consists of the creeks, rivers, lakes and reservoirs that supply or retain water flowing into the Colorado River. The Colorado River Basin consists of two basins, a northern basin and a lower basin. The upper basin starts with the Green, Blocks Fork and Big Sandy Rivers which flow into the Flaming Gorge Reservoir near Rock Springs in the lower western corner of Wyoming. The Green River then flows south merging into the Colorado River in Utah, just south of Moab, UT. The San Juan River joins the Colorado River at Lake Powell, which is the bottom of the upper basin at Lee’s Ferry.
In the lower basin the Virgin, Gila and Little Colorado Rivers flow into the Colorado River which flows south through Mexico to the Gulf of California. There are fifteen dams on the main stream of the Colorado River and hundreds more on tributaries.

These two basins provide water for the seven states that comprise the Colorado River Pact. They are Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, California, Arizona and New Mexico. The period from 2000 through 2021 has been the driest 22-year period in the Colorado River Basin in more than 100 years of record keeping and one of the driest in the past 1,200 years based on paleohydrology data.

Forecasted inflow to the two major reservoirs on the river, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, is about 34% of average in water year 2021, and each reservoir’s current storage is already down to nearly one-third of capacity compounded from the previous dry conditions of 54% of average in water year 2020. Declining storage levels due to ongoing droughts have resulted in reduced hydropower generation efficiency and concerns about approaching the minimum power pool at Glen Canyon Dam, below which no power can be produced. Nevada and California are located on the a small portion of the lower Colorado River Basin and are both concerned primarily with the loss of power generated by the water from Lake Mead flowing through the Hoover Dam’s electricity generating turbines. Lake Mead has remained below full capacity since 1983, and continues to lose more water every year due to increasingly more severe droughts and increased water demand. California is making up its shortage of water from the Colorado River by building desalinization plants along it’s Pacific Ocean coastline. Arizona has no ocean coastline so it must continue to depend on the Colorado River and Central Arizona Project (CAP) for its water supply.

I was born 2/3/35 in Muskegon, MI, 12 years in USAF, married twice, 2 +3 children, moved to Tucson 1969, retired from Raytheon 1989. Moved to Sierra Morado community in 2012. Started working on a Mississippi River inter basin water transfer to the Colrado River project around 2000. I had been thinking about it on and off since I read an article about the arid southwest in a science magazine in 1946. I got to experience it when I was stationed at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas for 6 years, most of it in the hot sun on the flight line with no sun protection. I now have a bad case of skin cancer.

About author View all posts

Guest Author