Chapter 14: Decision-Support for the Water–Energy Nexus: Examining Decision-making in the American West
14. Decision-support for the water– energy nexus: examining decisionmaking in the American West Steve A. Conrad 14.1. INTRODUCTION It is July 21, 2015, and a lower-than-predicted flow in the Colorado River has caused water levels in Lake Mead to fall below 1060 feet for the second time in two years. Aggressive water conservation programs in Las Vegas and Phoenix, in addition to restrictions on irrigation allotments to farmers in California, have failed to reduce water demand sufficiently. If water levels continue to decline in Lake Mead, it may prove impossible to use the turbines at Hoover Dam to generate electrical power. Even though the US Bureau of Reclamation has released water from Lake Powell to raise the level of Lake Mead, water managers must soon decide between shutting down power generation and further curtailing water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada. Meanwhile, in Texas, water reserves at the South Texas Project Electric Generating Station have dropped significantly, prompting nuclear power plant managers to request an additional 80 000 acre-feet of water be diverted from the ‘Texas’ Colorado River – a completely different river system despite the identical name – to replenish the reserves. Rice farmers who depend on water from this Colorado River and who are still recovering from water interruptions during last year’s growing season have just received notice that continued drought conditions are expected. Unless the extreme water restrictions currently in place succeed in reducing demand on the river, the Lower Colorado River Authority, which supplies water to the rice farmers...
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