Climatology

Drought-parched West looks to the mighty Mississippi for solutions to the water crisis

Across the western United States, many areas are drying up, and Lake Powell and Lake Mead continue to reach historic lows.

“Well, we have really been drying for the last twenty years or so. The last time Lake Mead was full was around 2000,” University of Las Vegas climate scientist Matthew Lachniet said.

Water is becoming less available, and demand is increasing. Climatologists call this developing situation a “megadrought” and say the region has not been this parched since the year 800.

“What that results in is we just have less snowfall up on the mountains, which is one of the sources that gives us the groundwater here,” Lachniet explains.

Scientists are desperate to come up with a long-term solution. One idea that keeps coming up is diverting the flow of the Mississippi River to add water to the shrinking Colorado River Basin.

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“Making those kind of management decisions and changing the course of a river that significantly is bound to have some knock-on consequences that we can’t really account for right now,” Earth scientist from the Washington University Claire Masteller said.

Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam provide water to 40 million people and an estimated 5.5 million acres of agriculture in the West.

Scientists believe a possible solution would be diverting the Mississippi River in St. Louis to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. The journey would be 1500 miles from Missouri to Arizona, but could the engineering feat be possible?

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“Oh yeah, you can throw money at anything,” scientist Robert Criss said.

Professor Robert Criss specializes in hydrogeology at Washington University in St. Louis. Although he believes a pipeline or canal pushing water west could be achieved with time and money, other factors will crush the concept.

“The Mississippi Diversion, that will be greatly opposed by frankly all Midwestern states. And I don’t see any political hope for that kind of plan,” Criss said.

The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the navigation of the channels on the Mississippi River. FOX Weather reached out to them, but so far, no response on the matter has been given.

Solutions and ideas are being explored, but unfortunately, the harsh reality is looming.

“Nature is capable of being even drier than it is today, and we can have aridity that extends for hundreds of years and potentially thousands of years, that tells us what nature is capable of,” Lachniet said.

Ideas and debates on water security in the West have only just begun.

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