The U.S. Lakes That Could Disappear — Newsweek

Click the link to read the article on the Newsweek website (Robyn White). Here’s an excerpt:

  • Some of the U.S’. most famous lakes could disappear as climate change worsens.
  • The Great Salt Lake in Utah could disappear in 10 years if nothing is done, an expert told Newsweek.
  • Lake Mead could reach “dead pool” in just a few years, which would plunge the Southwest into a severe water crisis.
  • Lake Powell hit its lowest levels ever this year.

Climate change is causing extremely long periods of drought, particularly in the western U.S—a region that has suffered extreme drought for over two decades. Rising water temperatures caused by climate change are enhancing evaporation, which in turn dries out the soil…

PHOTO CREDIT: McKenzie Skiles via USGS LandSat The Great Salt Lake has been shrinking as more people use water upstream.

The Great Salt Lake

Utah’s Great Salt Lake— the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere—has reached historic lows in recent months. The lake has now lost 73 percent of its water. Ben Abbott, plant and wildlife sciences professor at Brigham Young University in Utah, told Newsweek that it could be gone within just ten years.

“Irrigated agriculture has diverted too much of the river flow that Great Salt Lake depends on. If we don’t increase the amount of water getting to the lake, it could be gone within a decade,” Abbott said. “Even those who live far from Utah will be affected if we lose the lake. Industry and agriculture across the country and beyond depend on magnesium and fertilizer from Great Salt Lake, and it is the most important inland wetland in the western US.”

The lake reached its lowest level in recorded history in November 2022, at 4,188.2 feet, 17 feet below the level it should be…

Ringside seats to the decline of Lake Mead. Credit: InkStain

Lake Mead

Lake Mead, the largest man made reservoir in the U.S., lies on the border between Nevada and Arizona, and is formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. It is a popular recreational spot, but is now most famous for its rapidly declining water levels. Being located in an area seeing severe drought and water shortages, Lake Mead’s water—which provides for 25 million people—is being used too quickly, with no means to replenish itself. In summer last year, the lake reached its lowest level yet recorded at around 1,040 feet. This was the lowest it had been since it was constructed in the 1930s. As of May 10, the lake’s water levels stood at 1,051.07 feet. The slight rise was due to wet weather that descended on the U.S. throughout winter, but again, it provides only a short-term solution. The reservoir is inching closer to “dead pool” level, around 895 feet, which would have dire consequences for the surrounding areas—it would plunge the Southwest into a major water crisis. And experts predict that this could happen in just a few years…

“Ultimately, the only way to save the Colorado River and other major waterways in the West is to use less water. This means prioritizing system stability over maximizing all water deliveries. Our current rules, policies, and funding are not currently sufficient to protect the West for the medium or long-term,” [Karyn] Stockdale said…

Lake Powell has been about a quarter-full. The snowpack looks strong now, but it’s anybody’s guess whether there will be enough runoff come April and May to substantially augment the reservoir. May 2022 photo/Allen Best

Lake Powell

Lake Powell is another Colorado River reservoir that faces the very real threat of drying up in the near future…In February this year, Lake Powell’s water levels reached a historic low of 3,521.77 feet. The water levels has since risen to 3,532.90 feet as of May 9, but this is still dangerously low…

While the Great Salt Lake, Lake Mead and Lake Powell are of the most concern as climate change worsens, there are many others in the U.S. that face a dire future if nothing is done.

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