The Colorado River basin – which includes Utah as well as six other states – lost 53 million acre-feet of water from December 2004 to November 2013, according to a study led by NASA and the University of California at Irvine and reported in the Deseret News on July 26 of this year.
NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission tracked ground and surface water in the region through satellites. Of the 53 million acre-feet lost, 41 million was groundwater and the rest was surface water (for example, Lake Mead, which is at a historically low level).
Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at UC Irvine and the study’s lead author, said of the findings, “We thought the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”
Since one acre-foot of water is equal to 325,851 gallons, 53 million acre-feet is obviously a huge amount of water to lose. A few heavy rains like we had in early August are just a drop in the bucket when compared to this decline in water resources. Our growing population in the West continues to put further pressure on water supplies.
Residents of all Western states need to work together to preserve this most precious of resources.