For the first time since Lake Mead was created with the construction of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River nearly a century ago, the federal government will soon cut the amount of water flowing from the shrinking reservoir to Nevada, Arizona and Mexico. Years of drought and intense heat in the West has led to a huge decline in the flow of the river that supplies water to 40 million people in seven states and Mexico. Climate change could more than double that water deficit by the end of the century.
Class discussion: Lake Mead is at its lowest level since its creation. Do you think it can fill back up? Why or why not? Could water shortages end the explosive growth the western United States has experienced since the big dams were built on the Colorado River? With 70% of the river’s water used for agriculture, what could cutting the flow do to food prices? What about underground water supplies also drying up? Should western farmers switch to crops that require less water? Will a changing climate change the foods we eat?