Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Colorado Basin Disappearing From Below

The Colorado River Basin is one of the most important sources of water for most of the Western United states.  It provides water to 40 million Americans and over 4 million acres of farmland in seven western states.  Quite alarmingly in the last few years, research has shown that groundwater is vanishing from the basin much quicker than ever expected.  In the last 9 years the basin has lost approximately 65 cubic kilometers of fresh water.  This quantity is nearly double the size of the nations largest reservoir, Lake Mead.  Many were stunned when NASA weather satellites showed such a drastic decline in such a seemingly short period of time.  More incredibly almost two thirds of the water lost, was groundwater.  The information gap arises because of the fact that surface water residing in the Colorado River Basin is closely regulated and monitored by the US Bureau of Reclamation, while there are no interstate regulations on how the states monitor and measure groundwater levels.  With consistent water table information from monitoring wells being readily unavailable, researchers are having a very hard time tracking the declines and identifying what in fact caused the sudden drop.  Clearly this supply issue has a potential of impacting most of the western united states, and could be developmentally crippling to their rapidly growing cities.