From the Aspen Daily News (Will Grant):
David M. Kennedy, who is also director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, used maps, tables, figures and photographs to show the development of the country west of the [100th] meridian, the role of water in the West and the challenges facing the nation in future management of the resource. The future challenges of water management are largely a function of the past development, Kennedy said. And most of that development, which included a lot of manipulation to benefit humans, leaves us a tough hand to play. “When it comes to Mother Nature, you can only push Mother Nature around for so long before she starts pushing back,” he said…
Today’s management of our natural resources is a function of the management regimes we’ve inherited, Kennedy noted. He used Lake Mead as an example. Lake Mead is a product of the country’s scientific development phase and was one of the government’s first, large-scale interstate projects for water. And because of upstream demands on the Colorado River, Lake Mead will never again fill to its capacity, said Kennedy, referring to a recent presentation he and other industry professionals heard on the subject. By 2020, the lake “could be nothing more than a mudhole.”
And one of the factors that has changed the game completely, Kennedy said, is climate change. Meltwater is starting to run off nearly a month earlier, which means more wildfires, and alpine snowpacks are holding less water. “There’s less of the resource available as a result of climate change,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said that the changing climate will require new ways for existing and future generations to handle the water management regimes inherited from developers of the past century.