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Monday, February 17, 2020

Desert Mega-Cities Chomping At The Bit Of Unbridled Growth

The water looked so inviting. But, as we all know, "looks" can be deceiving. Belying the lake and landscape's superficial beauty awaited 54 degree ice water. So we skipped the "dip," opting instead to ponder the contradiction of so much precious water in one of the driest desert landscapes on earth.

Lake after lake after lake: the Colorado River has been dammed (or damned, you decide) to Hell and back. Thus, the Growth-At-Any-Cost mentality of urban sprawls the likes of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson continue to mushroom. "If you build it, they will come," further taxing an already overtaxed and diminishing resource with bigger "straws," exacerbating the Head-in-the-sand folly of building megacities with lawns and golf courses in places they do not belong. 

Tucson was forced to take notice that it had outgrown it's groundwater aquifer supply decades ago when, as a result of dropping water levels, the megapolis began to "settle."  The upshot of that reality resulted in a diversion project that pumped water all the way across the desert from the Colorado River to Tucson. The project was intended to lessen dependence on their ever-shrinking overtaxed groundwater supply. Unfortunately, the Colorado River water proved unpalatable due to taste and odor problems. Outraged customer complaints forced the City to blend the groundwater supply with the Colorado River in an attempt to dilute the foul taste and odor problems and quell the uprising. Excess Colorado River water was then injected via deep wells into the groundwater aquifer in order to diminish its depletion and the settling problems associated with a shrinking aquifer.       

For more years than not in this century, Lake Mead has hovered near or at the minimum water level (1975 feet above sea level) necessary to operate turbines that generate the bulk of power required to both light up the "strip" and air condition virtually every house, hotel, and business in greater Las Vegas. Without water to turn the turbines, Las Vegas would have no summer air conditioning and/or winter heat, for that matter. Without air conditioning and heat, the gamblers would not come. And without gamblers, well, Vegas would be fast-tracked to a modern day ghost town on the order of Chernobyl. After back-to-back near-record winters with higher than normal precipitation from states that feed Lake Powell and Lake Mead (mostly the Colorado River) as of February 10, 2020, Powell stands at a paltry 50% and Mead at 43%.

After decades of flirting on the edge of sustained drought and subsequent restrictions on "releases," engineers were forced to "buy some time" by modifying Hoover Dam's power generating turbines to allow operation at lake levels down to as low as 950 feet, as opposed to1075 feet. Most water scientists agree that Lakes Mead and Powell will never fill again and that they will continue to drop. We can only hope they are wrong.   

With Lakes Powell and Mead acting as "sediment traps," Lake Mohave and Lake Havasu are perpetually clear.
Camped at Katherine's Landing on the shore of Lake Mohave, we hike to a distant mountain range.

Lake Mohave: reduced to a tiny slit of blue by distance

There is a stark beauty to the deserts and canyons that encompass the Colorado River Corridor.
The comes Lake Havasu, made famous after chainsaw tycoon Robert P McCulloch purchased the London Bridge for 2.5 million dollars and had it dismantled, numbered all its pieces, and had it shipped to Lake Havasu for reassembly.
From our campsite in Havasu State Park, there is a nice trail/pathway along the lake that takes in the commercial segment around the London Bridge as well as beyond to a lush green park with playgrounds and skateboard parks. A long walk we never tire of...

London Bridge and canal-side walkway. The bridge takes you to Grand Island, where there are hotels, homes, and fine dining establishments.

One of many beaches

Skate Park

Just south of Havasu City is SARA, a large park with hiking and biking trails as well as a few mountains to climb. My goal was to bike to the lake...

Some of the RV parks really like to jam you in...

But the State Park is spacious, with nice beaches. No wonder they're always full.

Peace out.


  1. We (man and woman kind) are living on the edge, pushing hard on so many tipping points. One day, could be tomorrow or a 1000 generations from now, we will be forced to reconcile with our continued existence on this planet.

  2. Giggled through the first few paragraphs! As you know I've been too "busy" (there's a loaded word) to read any blogs in almost a year, but your title caught my eye when I opened my own blog today. Now I'll have to go back in time and see what other foolishness you've been up to. Congratulations on surviving into 2020!

  3. Humans never take the long view. Perhaps it's because we live a relatively short time. As a group we are also counterintuitively stupid in that we use all resources to extinction wherever possible and thus are the ultimate Darwin award winners. Jim

  4. .....like a breath of fresh air, yes, just too see the two of you both out enjoying NATURE, Mother Earth and feeling Alive once again....


  5. Vegas and Phoenix are doomed, although by the time the water and power runs out, the U.S. will be more concerned with seawater inundating coastal communities.

    Okay, I'm a bit of a pessimist. I admit I read too many climate and political essays and sometimes wish I was closer to 70 than 40. But I do think we need to make the most of our time as the future is deeply uncertain.

  6. Thanks for the lesson! Also, who's that cool guy in the header photo with Bobbie?

  7. It is sad to see what it takes to have that nice clear water in lakes Mojave and Havasu. The future does not look good for our environment. Chris

  8. I am sad about what we humans are doing to this earth. But, I am jealous of the warm climate that you are in!

  9. The prognosis of the Colorado is grim and depressing. I selfishly hope that I expire before the river dries up. People never should have come here, but we did.

  10. I was just in Phoenix and it definitely feels like a place humans should not live.


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