Here in the Southwest, the question of whether we can trust climate science — not the few scientists involved in the e-mails, but the enterprise as a whole — matters a great deal because of what the science’s leading practitioners have been telling us in recent years.
Tucked away in a routine Bureau of Reclamation report released last month was this remarkable fact: The decade of the ’00s has been the driest 10-year stretch in the Colorado River Basin, in terms of the amount of water available for cities, farms and the river’s ecosystem, since record-keeping began more than 100 years ago.
Lake Mead, the massive reservoir that stores Colorado River water for Nevada, Arizona and California, is at its lowest level since it was first filled in the 1930s. Its upstream sibling, Lake Powell, is not much better.
With Albuquerque increasingly dependent on water imported from the Colorado River Basin for its water, and Santa Fe soon to follow, what happens there matters in New Mexico.
The shrinking river and dwindling lakes must have an eerie and unpleasant “told-you-so” feel for California water researcher Peter Gleick. In 1993, in one of the first detailed studies of the effect increasing greenhouse gases might have on the great river basin, he and a colleague predicted declining flows in the arid west’s great river.