We often take for granted things we see daily, until they disappear. We don’t think a lot about the water we drink when it tastes or looks like we expect it to. If it smells bad, however, we would notice. Of course, the same would be true in a large way, if our water supply disappeared. In some parts of the world, that is already happening because of global warming.
In South America, in the Valparaíso region of Chile, a large lake, Lake Peñuelas, which formerly supplied drinking water to about two-million people, has been evaporating for the past several years and has finally dried up completely. The cause was a series of severe droughts that have lasted many years since 2010. All that remains is a barren landscape that looks like a desert. The locals who live in rural areas, and who have depended on the lake, must now have bottled water trucked in—and not just for drinking, but also for bathing, and for sustaining the little remaining agriculture. In the area, it has been estimated that over ten-thousand farm animals have perished. The lake is part of a government-protected reserve to protect natural and wild areas of the country.
In North America, in the state of Arizona, Lake Powell is another large body of water that has been experiencing record-low levels. A difference is that this lake, unlike Lake Peñuelas, was artificially created as a reservoir for the Glen Canyon Dam facility that also generates electricity through hydropower in the area. Environmentalists have long criticized the creation of the dam and Lake Powell. To create the reservoir, hundreds of feet of water from the Colorado River were allowed to flood and fill up Glen Canyon, an undeveloped area of nature, in the name of business and industry.
Areas of the lake have become popular vacation playgrounds for water-enthusiast tourists. However, because of the recent, low levels of water, boat access to the lake has been restricted. The power plant has also reported there is insufficient water for it to generate electricity.
Although most environmentalists agree that climate change is the culprit here, some government officials who are more concerned about the loss of tourist dollars have blamed local farmers for either over-irrigating their crops or for growing plant life that require too much water. They have made a proposal to pay farmers to temporarily stop irrigating their lands to conserve water. Owners and operators of the Glen Canyon power plant also support this idea because it would allow them to use the water in Lake Powell to resume generating electricity.
The plan is controversial. Supporters of local farmers suggest that the it would destroy rural agriculture in the area. Nevertheless, some in the government suggest that using the water for generating electricity is more important. In the neighboring state of Utah, developers of a water pipeline project—that will sell and deliver water from the reservoir to that state’s urban areas—also support the water-conservation plan.
Environmentalists, who have been calling for the closure of the Glen Canyon Dam for years, claim that, because of the current levels of global warming, climate change will no doubt bring a natural end to Lake Powell and the operation of the dam and power plant. The combination of rising temperatures, periods of drought, and shifting rain patterns, is already in play. They hope, once the dam is dismantled, nature will reclaim the Glen Canyon and to return it to its wild state by letting the Colorado River run through it in a natural way. Ecological experts agree that, when this happens, it will actually be a surprising and positive twist to the climate crisis, at least for the area.
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