Lake Mead, which sits on the state border between Nevada and Arizona, and the Colorado River, which makes a state border in the same region, face a severe drought.
Since 1985, the lake’s water levels have dropped significantly, which is a bad sign for the regions that depend on it. According to Vox, the vast man-made lake is only at 39% of its capacity and has decreased by 44% in April 2020.
This drought has been predicted for a century, and yet, when the development of these two states was planned, it was not taken into consideration at all.
The challenge now is how to plan a future where natural watersheds are utilized and prioritized over artificial borders and infrastructure. AZ Central reports on the attitudes that have led development so far:
“Instead of working in concert with the West’s natural assets, human settlements followed Thomas Jefferson’s one-size-fits-all orthogonal grid system, depending on massive infrastructure projects to move water to places where it would not otherwise be. Such interventions, while spectacular, have obscured our relationship with the natural systems that support us.”
These regions have accessible resources, but those resources are contested and fought over because of imposed boundaries that were put in place over a hundred years ago.
For water planning and management to be effective in these Southern and Western states, local, regional, and national governments will need to step backward and see the bigger picture.
As some in the water infrastructure management and future planning field have noted:
“Our shared future requires zooming out from conventional vantage points, questioning imposed boundaries, and taking in larger truths. If we do this, we can bend the curve on our present trajectory and, in the process, create a more inclusive, adaptable, and resilient country.”