Water and power shortages due to climate change, U.N. warns

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned the two largest reservoirs in the United States – Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which are both man-made reservoirs on the Colorado River, are currently at their lowest levels ever, in part because of an ongoing drought exacerbated by climate change.

The conditions in the American West around the Colorado River basin have been so dry for more than 20 years that it is no longer spoken of a drought. In fact, it is referred to as ‘aridification’ — a new, very dry normal.”

The river is also struggling thanks to overconsumption due to a growing population and an outdated agreement that guarantees allotments for its neighbouring states. The reservoirs provide water for agricultural and residential use in Arizona, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada and New Mexico.

If conditions don’t improve, Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at risk of reaching “dead pool” status, in which the water is so low it stops flowing out of a reservoir. That would disable the hydroelectric dams that help provide power for millions of residents of the western U.S.

The falling water levels have been a concern for U.S. officials for some time and the problem is accelerating.