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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Kent Bush: Keep an eye on dam problems

  • Dam problem could affect your wallet
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  • This may be the worst dam column I have ever written.
    I’ve never been one to shy away from deep issues because I think information should flow freely and not be obstructed.
    But this dam column is one of the scariest dam columns I have ever had to write.
    The Hoover Dam has done a great job of restricting the flow of the Colorado River to create Lake Mead – a 112-mile long reservoir that is visible from space.
    But that watershed is going to reach historically low levels thanks to two of the driest years on record.
    As the Midwest is watching its flood monitor grow less and less severe, Nevada is still as arid as it has been in generations. As evidenced by the huge bathtub ring of deposited minerals the receding water has left, the lake hasn’t fallen this low since 1956.
    America’s largest reservoir is getting smaller by the day. The forecast for the next 10 days calls for high temperatures between 103 and 111 degrees and there is only one day where rain is even a possibility.
    Why is this important?  The dam provides hydroelectric power but the reservoir is a water source for more than 40 million people.
    The Hoover Dam is a miracle of modern engineering and when the winter snowfall and spring rain cooperate, it helps supply water and electrical power to a huge portion of the southwest United States.
    On the current course of increasing usage and decreasing precipitation, the lake could fall below the minimum power pool elevation in only three years.
    More than 6 million tourists visit the site for recreational purposes each year and Las Vegas depends on the water levels to remain in the usable range for both electricity and water.
    If lake levels continue to drop, California, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming will all be affected as their access to the Colorado River will be threatened.
    Regional problems begin to hit home when you realize that farmers in the area are being affected which will increase our food prices. If Las Vegas can’t get power from the dam, the power pool will be hit with a huge demand which will cause power prices to rise.
    All of these issues that begin with a moderately localized drought could have a web of effects that affect the entire nation.
    These problems are the lessons that inform governmental leaders who are rarely content with one water source or power supply for their constituents. Because the difference in a full reservoir and a major issue is only a few years apart even in the country’s largest lake.
    On a smaller scale the pace picks up even more.
    Page 2 of 2 - Keep an eye on these big dam problems out in the desert because they could soon have a big effect on your wallet.
    Kent  Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: kbush@butlercountytimesgazette.com

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