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Sandra Postel on Managing Drought in the US Southwest

March 12, 2018

Post Carbon Fellow Sandra Postel offers practical ideas for managing the ongoing drought conditions in the southwestern United States. With a clear-eyed analysis of the problem, including less snow pack in the Rocky Mountains, lower flows in the rivers, dropping reservoir levels, and multiple competing uses, Postel provides a plan that employs conservation, innovation, and cooperation to safeguard supplies of fresh water — the most important resource in the Southwest.

From the article: 

The drought now gripping the southwestern United States feels scarily familiar. In a recent public opinion survey of western voters, 82 percent listed low river levels as their top concern when it came to water.

In five of the last seven years the snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin on March 1 has registered below the long-term average. It has been nearly two decades since Lakes Powell and Mead, the giant reservoirs on the Colorado River that supply water to some 40 million people and 5 million acres of farmland, were full. Currently, their capacities stand at 55 percent and 41 percent respectively, and with much of the Colorado River Basin now in severe or extreme drought, those lake levels will not rise significantly any time soon.