What It Would Take to Save Lake Powell and Lake Mead

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ndscott50

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Ah, yes, but if it could be done...
It is amazing how much water is in the Mississippi. Average discharge into the golf of Mexico is 420,000 CFS. If you moved 10% of it (which would have a minimal impact on the river) you would get 30 million acre feet of water per year. You could probably terraform the southwest with that much water. 5 million acre feet to fill and maintain Powell/Mead. Two million to refill the Salton Sea, three million to fill the great salt lake, five million to fill various smaller endorheic basins in Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona and then use the remaining 15 million acre feet to recreate Lake Lahontan in Nevada. Pump that much water for 50 or 100 years and you would have a whole new much wetter climate.

All you need is several trillion dollars, some type of fusion power and a complete disregard for any unintended consequences of reengineering the climate of 1/4 of the country.
 

Outside

Well-Known Member
It is amazing how much water is in the Mississippi. Average discharge into the golf of Mexico is 420,000 CFS. If you moved 10% of it (which would have a minimal impact on the river) you would get 30 million acre feet of water per year. You could probably terraform the southwest with that much water. 5 million acre feet to fill and maintain Powell/Mead. Two million to refill the Salton Sea, three million to fill the great salt lake, five million to fill various smaller endorheic basins in Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona and then use the remaining 15 million acre feet to recreate Lake Lahontan in Nevada. Pump that much water for 50 or 100 years and you would have a whole new much wetter climate.

All you need is several trillion dollars, some type of fusion power and a complete disregard for any unintended consequences of reengineering the climate of 1/4 of the country.
Each atmospheric river event holds the average discharge at the mouth of the Mississippi, hard to comprehend.

What are atmospheric rivers? | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
It is truly meeting the goal of public lands of supporting many uses. If we look at the economic activity Glen Canyon Dam supports, NPS estimates about $500M in benefits from tourism, there is about $150M in power revenue, but the agricultural benefit can easily be measured in the billions, as the Colorado River Basin supports $60B of agriculture, largely based on the support of the water availability provided by Lake Powell/Lake Mead. Agriculture will always be the big dog and is the sole purpose the USBR is operating these massive public works projects.
Good comments for sure, and I agree Agriculture is a big moneymaker in the mix. But to clarify the numbers a bit, in 2021, the total value of crops in Imperial County in CA (which is the big beneficiary in CA of Colorado River water) was about $2 billion, not $60 billion (source: California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Agricultural Statistics Review 2020-21). Notably, Imperial County barely cracks the top 10 counties in CA in terms of agricultural revenue. (That state's entire crop value in 2021 was about $49 billion, which was #1 in the nation, about 80% more than Iowa, which was #2.) Of that $2 billion, only about $300 million is from lettuce and alfalfa. (Most ag revenue in that county is from cattle and vegetables.)

So yes, Ag in general is a big deal for sure, but the revenue generated from the two most commonly blamed crops in Imperial County that rely heavily on irrigation from the Colorado River is not on the order of magnitude you imply in your post...
 
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nzaugg

Well-Known Member
Good comments for sure, and I agree Agriculture is a big moneymaker in the mix. But to clarify the numbers a bit, in 2021, the total value of crops in Imperial County in CA (which is the big beneficiary in CA of Colorado River water) was about $2 billion, not $60 billion (source: California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Agricultural Statistics Review 2020-21). Notably, Imperial County barely cracks the top 10 counties in CA in terms of agricultural revenue. (That state's entire crop value in 2021 was about $49 billion, which was #1 in the nation, about 80% more than Iowa, which was #2.) Of that $2 billion, only about $300 million is from lettuce and alfalfa. (Most ag revenue in that county is from cattle and vegetables.)

So yes, Ag in general is a big deal for sure, but the revenue generated from the two most commonly blamed crops in Imperial County that rely heavily on irrigation from the Colorado River is not on the order of magnitude you imply in your post...
I wasn't referring to the Imperial Valley specifically, which I think is completely unsustainable. I was referring to overall Colorado River Basin agricultural interests, specifically from here https://uwm.edu/centerforwaterpolic...es/170/2013/10/Colorado_Agriculture_Final.pdf

Imperial Valley agricultural is about as unsustainable as it gets. They have palm tree plantations there and big fields of alfalfa. It seemed very alien to me when I drove through.
 

John P Funk

Escalante-Class Member
I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but cheap water and long growing seasons(multiple hay cuttings) make farming the desert possible/profitable. If the cost of water rises(as it should in times of scarcity), that profitability becomes questionable and land will be left fallow. Water districts need to be more proactive in setting prices for water based on reality rather than politics. The downside is that prices for ag products will rise, and imports from outside the US will likely increase. Milton Friedman would be so proud if the market was allowed to be free.
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
I wasn't referring to the Imperial Valley specifically, which I think is completely unsustainable. I was referring to overall Colorado River Basin agricultural interests, specifically from here https://uwm.edu/centerforwaterpolic...es/170/2013/10/Colorado_Agriculture_Final.pdf

Imperial Valley agricultural is about as unsustainable as it gets. They have palm tree plantations there and big fields of alfalfa. It seemed very alien to me when I drove through.
Fair enough, but most of that $60 billion is California, and comparatively little of California ag uses water from the Colorado River—mostly focused in Imperial Valley, which was my point.
 

nzaugg

Well-Known Member
Fair enough, but most of that $60 billion is California, and comparatively little of California ag uses water from the Colorado River—mostly focused in Imperial Valley, which was my point.
That's a good point. I guess I missed that part of the reference saying it was the states overall. Central Valley is the crop king and they are far from Colorado Water interests. Do any Senators spend time on the lake?
 

Gunny

Active Member
I'm lost as to why Arizona has to give up three times as much water as California. Because some old codgers in 1922 said so? Those idiots are the same fools who made the passenger pigeons extinct and market hunted waterfowl until they were almost as well. No, those were not good decision makers.
 

DirtSailor71

Active Member

So I live in the Phoenix area and here's some data as to Arizona's water use. 36 percent comes from the Colorado, but the majority comes from groundwater. 72 percent of our total water use is for ag uses. But the majority of the Colorado water use for ag is along the CO in La Paz and Yuma counties. Soon to be next to no farms in AZ anymore outside of that area. The farms in the Phoenix area are long gone and any farms remaining in Pinal county (area between Phoenix and Tucson) will be gone by 2030 as their water supply is drying up (groundwater depletion and CO river water cuts.
 

Gunny

Active Member

So I live in the Phoenix area and here's some data as to Arizona's water use. 36 percent comes from the Colorado, but the majority comes from groundwater. 72 percent of our total water use is for ag uses. But the majority of the Colorado water use for ag is along the CO in La Paz and Yuma counties. Soon to be next to no farms in AZ anymore outside of that area. The farms in the Phoenix area are long gone and any farms remaining in Pinal county (area between Phoenix and Tucson) will be gone by 2030 as their water supply is drying up (groundwater depletion and CO river water cuts.
Leading by example. Love it. California take note.
 

iamaverb

Member
Drip irrigation works well on a domestic level and saves huge amounts of water. I appreciate there are issues when scaling this system of water delivery to massive acreages of farmland but it can't beyond the wit of man to make such a system viable on a larger scale. Flood irrigation is unsustainable going forwards.
In the very dry southeastern part of Spain, I rode past mile upon mile upon mile of huge drip irrigation farms on my Harley 10 years back, and the country has expanded that over the years since then. Google Earth Almeria Spain to see just one of the many regions under tarps.
 

DirtSailor71

Active Member

Gunny

Active Member

There have been comments about the alfalfa in Arizona that goes to the Middle East. This article is a most detailed I've seen on how we got to this present day problem.
The sins of our fathers
 

weeds

Well-Known Member

There have been comments about the alfalfa in Arizona that goes to the Middle East. This article is a most detailed I've seen on how we got to this present day problem.
Thanks muchly for posting.
Excellent discussion.
 
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