There is a large reservoir, Lake Powell, on the Utah-Arizona border where house-boaters would have vacationed in past years, but now one of the two boat ramps once available to launch the motorized vessels is closed. At this closed-to-motorized-vessels ramp, people carry their kayak or paddle board down a steep slope to the water surface. Many house-boaters no longer visit this lake and as a result this affects the local economy.
Whether one believes in climate change or not, the reality at this lake is a 120 foot drop in the level of the water since the 1980’s and additional 30 foot drop this past year. That is a lot of water not available to us. The western states have forests with drying trees as a result of the mega-droughts experienced the last number of years, with wildfires scarring land so when it does rain the water flows elsewhere and never recovered.
Why do we need water in the lake, beyond our recreational use? It is part of a delivery system of drinking water that supplies Arizona, California and Nevada, along with Mexico. In the news you may have seen Las Vegas homeowners given rebates to convert their grassy lawns to xeriscapes, landscapes requiring no or less water. Also, Glen Canyon Dam, which currently holds the lake water, may no longer be able to generate electricity because the water level may be to low at the power generating stations.
As I stood at the closed boat launch, looking across the lake to the 100 foot high bathtub ring, I realized in past 1970’s visits to this lake there was plenty of water! Yet now we need to be smarter about our water use, hope for more rain and snow fall, and have a plan since climate scientists predict in ten years there may not be water in this lake.
I write this blog for my readers to see the lower waterline, closed boat launch, the bathtub ring where water once covered, and to encourage you to read up on the subject and think about water conservation in your own life. Westerners want snow and rain. There will be discussions about the future of the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. We need to be aware of how any decision may affect our own lives. Water is a natural resource we need for living!
Below are photos from the closed boat launch at Lake Powell:
You may not know it, but there are many abandoned mines (100,000, but only 19,000 officially identified) in Arizona. You may already know this state produces more copper than any other state, which also has gold and silver mines. I began thinking about mines when I read a highway sign on my way to Summerhaven. It stated there had once been 1300 mines in the valley I was overlooking to the east. Another day I was bicycling past a couple of open pits with their warning signs on the west side of Tucson. Then I got thinking about the jaguar, Gila topminnows, Chiricahua leopard frogs and yellow-billed cuckoos in the Las Cienagas National Conservation Area and Nature Conservancy property near the Sonoita Creek Watershed because I heard mining was proposed for the area. How would that wildlife survive mining activity?
There is plenty to absorb when learning about mining practices whether it be a shaft mine or an open pit mine, but here are my concerns: using our already scarce desert water and degradation of and leaving behind a toxic environment. The population in this state increases each year and clean water is always needed. A mining operation uses millions of gallons of water per day. When mining is done a scar at least a mile wide and 3,000 feet deep remains, and since backfilling an open pit can cause more environmental damage and safety concerns it is not done. Here’s the additional water concern, besides the millions of gallons of water used each day, the pit would puncture our aquifer and drain water into it creating a pit lake. That is not the direction water should be going! The water from the mine is not to be part of our groundwater and drinking water. An aquifer is to be separate and going to creeks and springs providing clean water for wildlife, along with being our future drinking water. The pit lake water evaporates faster than if in an aquifer, plus metals in the water are concentrated and years later create a toxic ground environment.
Is politics involved in any of this business activity? Apparently so. July 2016 there was the Clean Water Act to be adhered to and some mines had to refocus their process since they could not meet the guidelines. But after a political appointment was made (Deputy Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt) in March 2019, Clean Water permits began to be approved! Due to various opposition to some mining proposals, some projects are on hold. The best way to get involved with stopping industrialized mining is to join advocacy groups such as checking out the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance website. There you will find information and current concerns.
On the other side you’ll hear advantages of a mine: about 2500 people hired for typically a 3 year construction period, wages two times the median in the area, 500 people employed for the 19 years typical for the life of a mine, and metals extracted and shipped for products to be made, such as electronics. Then ask: do we have millions of water to give away each day? Is our aquifer protected so we have drinking water now and the future? Do you know what that scar on the earth looks like? Why are we making our environment unhealthy for wildlife and ugly? Are you aware that Native American tribes consider some of these lands sacred? Why is a foreign country ruining our land and water for their economic business? How many more endangered species do we need to lose before we care?
This is not just about Arizona. Many U.S. states and places around the world are facing similar issues. Be aware of what we are doing to our planet Earth. Future generations wish to enjoy water, air and land within healthy lifestyles so let’s be sure we leave them the best we can!
My escape to the mountain forest provides me with relief from the hot dry desert temperatures. Thankfully within 25 miles I can be at a higher elevation with a 30 degree cooler air temperature!
I like walking along or in a creek bed in a wooded area with my tripod, camera and binoculars. It is fun despite any little black gnats wanting to bother me. I am looking for birds. I capture a few photos of birds in trees, but my best are when I find a puddle of water in a creek bed. Today is one of those days!
In the tree sits a female black-throated gray warbler. (I learn its identification later in the evening when I do my research.) Water is below the bird. Other birds flew in and out of this area, but what will this bird do? She seems to look my way to see what I am going to do. So we both wait.
Finally she flies down to the water and again seems to be watching me, or so I think! No one else is around and she can enjoy the water.
Now for some bird fun in the water! I love it, but should have also changed my shutter speed to something faster to catch those water droplets in mid-air and the feathers flying all over, but instead I enjoy the bath time activity! Bird watching took priority over my photography.
Finally a chance to jump back onto a branch and relax!