[アメリカ生活] 西海岸の水不足、コロラド川の事情、そして山火事

The Colorado River エッセイ


There are many disasters around the world recently, triggered by Global Warming. Here on the West Coast, we constantly hear the news of extreme heat, water shortage and wildfire.

Because of the prolonged drought, the already dry soil is getting even drier with this extreme heat. A little rain here and there does not change the situation.


Lake Shasta in Northern California, Lake Oroville in Central California, and the 2 big reservoirs along Colorado River, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, they are all recoding the lowest water levels. For the big cities in the desert, artificially delivered water is a lifeline. It will be a dire situation if the Colorado River, which is the main source of the water for these cities, dries up.


Let’s see the current situation.




The Colorado River runs through Grand Canyon, a well known tourist spot. It collects the snow-melt from the Rockies, being merged with tributaries from Wyoming and New Mexico, and flows through Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. 40 million people depend on the river for their water needs. It used to flow into the Gulf of Mexico but the river doesn’t reach the ocean since 1960s.


Gigantic cities built on desert, like Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, all use water from the Colorado River. Agricultures in the region use the water as well. Also, the dams along the river generate electric power for many.


We are seeing the lowest water levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead since the beginning of the dam

Amid A Megadrought, Federal Water Shortage Limits Loom For The Colorado River
The government is expected to issue its first water shortage declaration for the river, which supplies more than 40 million people. That will mean hardships for...
The huge dam



In the cities, there have been efforts to ease the water usages, for example, lawns were replaced with native plants that require less water, and using more efficient toilets. But for many farmers in the Southwest area, less water means less revenue, creating immediate economic damages. Already ranchers are forced to sell part of their herds because of the shortage and high price of the hay.

irrigation は「灌漑」だ


When there is more demand for limited resources, the competition increases naturally. There is an opinion that people use less water now that the local governments corporate with one another to distribute water efficiently. But water is going away, and the population keeps increasing. The situation does not seem sustainable however you think.



The scientists knew that historically, there have been significant droughts in the Southwest before people started developing these cities. There had been two Megadroughts in the last 1200 years. The last one was 400 years ago. But when they built Hoover Dam, there was plenty of water flowing through the waterway. They made huge wealth by building the dam and pipelines and canals.


Now that we start experiencing the natural cycle of Megadrought, the global warming is exasperating the situation. Even at this time of crisis, there is a new pipeline being constructed.

Los Angeles


There is no limit to human’s greed, even if we know if it not sustainable.


2000年から続く干ばつは、今では「Megadrought」と認識される。過去のメガドラウトは100年程度続いた。現在の Megadrought がこれから80年続くと考えるのは妥当だ。

The current drought that had started in the year 2000 is considered as Megadrought by now. The last Megadrought lasted for 100 years. It is reasonable to assume that this drought will last another 80 years.


The possibility of this Megadrought, on top of the Global Warming, we can understand how severe the situation keeps getting. Also, the increase of population expands residential areas into forests, making the damages even worse.


The forests in the Northern Coastal Mountains in Oregon are not prone to wildfire, but we never know how it will be in the future. In fact, we noticed that the unusual extreme heat we had experienced the other day had made western hemlock trees brown. It makes me think how influential the climate is to the vegetation that has been growing fine for a long time.

Western Hemlock


前代未聞は英語で、unprecidented と言う。今まで一度も起こらなかった、という理由で、これからも起こることは無い、とは予測できない状況になっている。それに、「今まで」がどこまで遡るか、は大きなポイントだ。人間の歴史は大きい目で見ればつい最近の事だ。また、現代社会は色々な面で「異常」だ。何が起こってもおかしくはない。

These days, just because it has never happened before, we can’t predict that it won’t happen. Besides, the important question is how long exactly “never” means. Human history is a fairly recent event in a bigger scheme of things. The modern life is “abnormal” in many ways. I feel like any unbelievable thing can happen.