Lakes Mead and Powell become “dead pools”

The two largest reservoirs in the United States, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which provide water and electricity to millions of people, have become “dead pools” English), UN alert.

This means that its water level is so low that the gates of the dam are not submerged enough to power the hydroelectric turbines, which mainly generate electricity.

“Lake Mead and Powell Dam not only provide drinking water and electricity to tens of millions of people – in Nevada, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Colorado, New -Mexico and neighboring Mexico – but also irrigation water for agriculture”, can we read in the press release of the UN

Satellite images of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, show “a stark illustration of climate change and a prolonged drought that could be the worst in the Western United States in twelve centuries”, NASA commented in a statement.

Lake Mead is only 27% full, the lowest level since the reservoir was filled in 1937, says The New York Times, added that the lake level must remain above 1,000 feet to continue operating the dam’s hydroelectric turbines.

A water intake pipe sits above the water level on Saddle Island, July 28, 2022 in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada, USA. | ETHAN MILLER/AFP

“After decades of drought, water levels in Lake Powell, the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States, have fallen to their lowest level since its inception more than 50 years ago,” also alerted, in April, the ESA EarthObservation agency, which published the evolution of the water surface that remains in the basin, between March 2018 and March 2022.

Fears of a supply crisis

When full, Lake Powell Dam will produce 1,320 megawatts, or 5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually, reports The Guardian .

As the water level dropped, hydroelectric production dropped to 800 megawatts, forcing the authorities to take extraordinary measures.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water resource management in the West, is urging states to take immediate action to protect critical reservoir levels by 2023.

“We are now beyond the drought”

Experts from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) point to the drought linked to the climate crisis and excessive water consumption, due in particular to population growth and irrigation for agriculture.

“Weather conditions in the western United States around the Colorado River Basin have been so dry for over twenty years that we have not been in a drought”said UNEP ecosystem expert Lis Mullin Bernhardt. “We are talking about aridification to know this new level”can we read in the UN press release.

Water restrictions have been announced, but Maria Morgado, UNEP’s Ecosystem Officer for North America, fears that these measures will not be enough. “The regulation and management of water supply and demand is obviously important in the short and long term, but the heart of the problem is climate change”, he said the same statement. “We have to deal with the causes of climate change as well as the need for water. »

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