DROUGHT PLAGUES THE ENTIRE SOUTHWEST
The Colorado River is the life-support system for the entire western United States. From 2000 through 2017, the last eighteen years have been the driest period in more than 100 years of record keeping on the Colorado River Basin. Nearly 40 million people, including 22 Native American Tribes, depend on this water source for their very lives.
RESERVOIRS ON THE COLORADO RIVER
- Hoover Dam holds back Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. It is currently at its lowest level in 40 years. Lake Mead will hold 31 million-acre feet of water when the water is at its highest level.
- Glen Canyon Dam created Lake Powell, which stores 26.2 million-acre feet of water. It is currently filled to its maximum capacity.
- Davis Dam is at the base of Lake Mojave, which stores 1.8 million-acre feet of water. Lake Mohave is also filled to maximum capacity
COLORADO RIVER BASIN COMPACT
- The Colorado River Basin Compact was signed into law by Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of the Interior, in 1922. It guaranteed 7.5 million-acre feet of water to supply both the upper and lower basin. Upper Basin states were guaranteed the water supply percentages listed below.
- The Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is the Water Master. He is directly responsible for every decision concerning the distribution of Colorado River Water. Secretary Zinke must make it a priority to review water distribution apportioned in 1922. It is ridiculous to continue with a policy established 96 years ago in view of the population in the western states today
New Mexico 11.25%
Arizona 50,000-acre feet annually
- Lower Basin States were allocated the following acre feet of water.
California 4.4 million-acre feet
Arizona 2.8 million-acre feet
Nevada 300,000-acre feet
An acre foot of water is one acre with one foot deep of water across its entire surface. An acre foot of water contains 325,851 gallons of water, to put it in terms most of us understand better.
It is important to point out the population shift in the states in the lower basin. Yet the distribution of water is based on an agreement forged in 1922, which has never been amended. In 1922, no one could have predicted Nevada would grow to a population of almost 3 million residents in 2017. It probably seemed to Herbert Hoover that a state, which he never visited, populated by sagebrush, snakes and sand would attract a dynamic and diverse population.
1922 Population 2017 Population
Nevada 81,000 2.998 million
California 3.991 million 39.54 million
Arizona 360,000 4.143 million
GREAT BASIN AQUIFER
The Great Basin Aquifer contains more fresh water than the Great Lakes. The five lakes, Superior, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Erie contain 6 quadrillion gallons, or 1/5th of all the fresh water in the world. Yet the Great Basin Aquifer, which lies beneath most of Nevada and a section of western Utah, is the largest contiguous watershed in North America. It covers 400,000 square miles of Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico—but most of this gigantic underground water source is under Nevada. It contains enough water to eliminate all the water concerns in the western United States. However, as I have pointed out in previous blogs, nuclear testing at Frenchman’s Flat, the “Test Site”, poisoned the aquifer. Over 1,021 nuclear bombs were exploded between 1951 and 1992. Of that amount 921 were underground, and 1/3 were detonated directly in the aquifer.
The Federal Government has remained silent about the environmental damage done to Nevada and the Western United States. Recently, several methods of removing heavy metals from water in the aquifer have been developed. Water is not radioactive. It is heavy metals, held in suspension by the water, which must be extracted to make it fit for human use.
METHOD OF PURIFICATION
The most common method of purification of radioactive materials in very minute quantities is distillation. However, radioactive materials which occur in larger quantities pose a bigger question. Rather than purify mass quantities of radioactive materials contained in the Great Basin Aquifer, they are currently placed deep underground until radioactive decay keeps it from being harmful. This is a silly statement because the half-life of Plutonium 244 is 80.8 million years.
Electro filtration method: Separation of liquid and solid phases to extract the pure substance with the use of electrodes
Filtration through a substance which reduces radioactive material, then uses another substance which binds the reduced radioactive material allows it to be separated from water. This method has recently acquired a patent and is still undergoing experimental procedures but remains effective.
WHAT WOULD IT COST TO SOLVE THE WATER PROBLEMS IN THE SOUTHWEST?
It cost $12.8 billion dollars to build the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford. The additional cost of an air wing, the support of 5 surface combat ships, 1 attack submarine and 6,700 sailors cost as much annually as the initial expense.
The Federal Government created the toxic waste in the Great Basin Aquifer. Building one less aircraft carrier and its support requirements would free up $25 billion dollars for clean-up of the aquifer. Making this water usable will eliminate drought problems in the western states. We don’t need another aircraft carrier, but 40 million people desperately need water.