Lake Mead, Lake Powell. Which one?

Many Americans are following the western states drought, and the falling water levels of both Lake Mead (Hoover Dam) and Lake Powell (Glen Canyon Dam).

The water levels of both are low. But it is generally thought that Lake Mead, which provides electric power and water to millions of California and Arizona agricultural and urban interests, is the more important lake.

I am one that thinks Lake Powell should be allowed to drain to supply Lake Mead. I will accept that I am being selfish in damaging one region in favor of another. I have no defense.

I am NOT interested in responses from those that want water for recreation. Lake recreation is nice if it’s there. But we are talking about water for survival. Piss off the recreational aspects.

For the record, I live in far northern California. We have plenty of annually recharged underground water. So the Lake Powell Lake Mead issue is of no concern to me. But I used to live in SoCal. So it is an issue I follow.

Your opinion?

Stop water intensive farming in parts of California that rely on out of state water.

Stop watering grass in Southern California. If grass won’t survive without watering find a more appropriate ground cover.

California has had terrible water practices for over 100 years.

It’s not so much a question of Sophie’s Choice as to which child dies first. Without an end to the worst drought in over1,300 years, both lakes will effectively run dry in the next few seasons.


Maybe end the growing of rice and alfalfa and end the big mega corp dairies as just a start.

Massive improvements are long overdue in irrigation.

Remember, this isn’t mom and pop farms but huge corporate bad neighbors sucking up something like 80% of California’s water.

Nothing surprising about this either, both Green Peace and Scientific America explained the problem over 30 years ago.

Outlaw commercial farming of almonds and rice in California. That takes us back into the plus column right there. Then drain Lake Powell. The Glen Canyon Dam should have been dynamited decades ago.

Hayduke Lives!

I agree with you What_Exit, but that is not an opinion about my OP.

I agree. No one in California, Nevada or Arizona will change their water use to a significant degree. I predict five to ten years.

I’m glad I no longer live in Glendale (SoCal).

It doesn’t really matter how much agriculture is scaled back; both Powell and Mead are being recharged at a rate that is not much more than that the evaporation rate over the last decade. This decline is inevitable.

It is also obnoxious how many people point to “stupid California farmers growing all of those water-hungry crops” whilst munching on cashews and eating guacamole made from California produce. This is not a ‘California problem’; it is an issue for consumers across the country used to getting their year-round out-of-season produce without a second thought. Yes, California farmers have grown water-thirsty crops, often for generations, because of how bountiful the yield is and how much consumers across the country desire fresh produce. Similarly, Arizona produces year round citrus straight out of the desert because consumers don’t want to drink FCOJ. The reality is that these farmers have invested massive capital into growing these crops because they are lucrative and prior to persistent climate change-induced drought—which is the responsibility of the entire developed world, not just energy consumers in California—the annual watershed was entirely adequate.

I’m curious as to how all of these people sneering at California agriculture will react once Nebraska and Kansas grain farming, which is highly dependent on fossil water reserves of the Ogallala Aquifer, starts running thin. Fresh water for agriculture isn’t a regional issue; it is a global problem for a burgeoning world population that is using this resource well beyond a sustainable rate, largely to support the supposed miracle of the “Green Revolution”. California isn’t the special needs child that just doesn’t ‘get it’; it is the canary in the coal mine of a much larger problem.


Nevada is already using their water pretty fantastically. We only get to use 4% of the water in Lake Mead and we return 96% of what we use. Las Vegas has grown more than double its size and yet we use less water than we did when it was half as big. We’re doing a good job with water conservation, anything we could do at this point wouldn’t put in a significant dent.

It’s all agricultural water that’s being used. You don’t even have to stop growing crops in the desert - grow more appropriate ones, or use better irrigation. Start charging the agricultural users the real price of the water and suddenly they’d be motivated to use it properly.

Thank you Stranger for explaining a bit more of water policy and impacts. I agree wholeheartedly with your commentary.

I’ll accept this, and I have read about Nevada efforts to conserve. But you have not voiced an opinion on the OP.

I’m not for outlawing the growing of any food crop plus I love almonds. However, I’d like to see high-water crop farmers pay a “real” price for irrigation water which would result in almonds being so expensive almost no one would buy them (and therefore almost no one would grow them). Maybe $70 or $80 a pound? They’d be more like caviar.

I pretty much believe that all wasteful luxury items should always be available… for a fair price that takes all the real costs into consideration.

Want to water your lawn 7 days a week? Fine! It’s your choice but it’s gonna cost you. Really, really, cost you. A lot.

What really annoys me is the fact that most if not all of the California almond crop is exported. You aren’t eating them, the Japanese are. That needs to stop. Or as noted, made vastly more expensive.

It’s a self-correcting problem; without water, the trees—which take about eight years to come to maturity, and delivery nuts for about the next forty years—will wither and die. Agreed that we should include the cost of ‘externalities’ in the price of those and all other crops irrigated by irreplaceable fresh water but if the true costs were accounted we would not have the incredibly cheap and plentiful fresh produce, not to mention food products made from highly subsidized corn, wheat, and soya.

This is not a new problem; go check out the extraction of peak in the Netherlands and why the modern nation is so prone to flooding and why food imports have been over 10% of their gross domestic product since 1960.


I just looked at an online shop in Switzerland.

Walnuts, grown in Switzerland, cost almost twice as much as almonds grown in California.

Walnuts 3.04 CHF for 100 g
Almonds 1.65 CHF for 100 g

And I’ve learned something today.

Stop subsidizing poor farming choices and start charging water according to its rarity.

What, and have the US abandon socialism for capitalism? Never! ;-D

The United States is a highly ‘socialist’ nation in the sense of wealth redistribution. It is just that the beneficiaries are large corporations, investment banks, the oil and gas industry, megachurches, and the military industrial complex. Protectionist practices and subsidies for farming are a pretty small slice of that overall pie and were largely intended to enhance competitiveness but have long been used to avoid externalities and give entrenched interests a leg up on upstart competition.


Yeah, I know. That was just tongue in cheek. Such a strange system we have

Thank you everyone, from I_Love_Me_Vol.1 to post 18. Your discussion of the value of almonds, walnuts, etc. is…something. Does any one of you have an opinion on the original topic?

Former SoCal, Phoenex, and Vegas resident. And former Lake Mead and l=Lake Powell boater.

Given the OP’s demand for an answer, I say sacrifice Powell first to delay the death of Mead by a few years. Won’t do much good for delaying the inevitable day of reckoning in the Southwest, but it’ll do some.

And agree of course with the overall consensus that the lake draining sequence is simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. If we desire to stay afloat, we shut down CA & AZ extractive agriculture. They either dry-land farm or go fallow forever.

And even after that we need to start ratioing the right to move into the area. The total population of the water-deprived areas must be managed.