These are breath taking. There are more photos at the two URLs.
Lake Mead Before and After the Epic Drought
A new study shows the Colorado River basin is losing water at a “shocking” rate.
By Eric Holthaus
Photos by Ethan Miller
A new study jointly released Thursday by NASA and the University of California at Irvine paints a shocking picture for the future of Western water.
Using a satellite designed to track changes in groundwater, the research team found that the Colorado River basin—which supplies water to 40 million people in seven states—lost 15.6 cubic miles of freshwater in the last 10 years. More than 75 percent of that loss came due to excessive groundwater pumping. It’s the first study to quantify just how big a role the overuse of groundwater plays in dwindling water resources out West. An accompanying map shows the striking impact of long-term drought in the fastest growing part of the United States. From Texas to California, the new research backs increasingly pressing efforts to limit groundwater pumping and renegotiate water rights in an era of global warming.
"We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle of UCI, the study's lead author, in a press release. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."
Nowhere is the drop in the Colorado River more apparent than in the Hoover Dam’s Lake Mead.
Earlier this month, Lake Mead set a new all-time record low. To memorialize the event, photographer Ethan Miller set out to take a series of “after” photos to complement pictures he took in July 2007. When you compare the two sets, the result is nothing short of stunning.
The Lake Mead Marina, in 2007 and 2014. The marina has been moved due to low water levels. Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
California Drought: Devastating Photos Show Lakes Drying Up
By Laura Dattaro Published: Aug 25, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
As California closes out its eighth month of a drought State of Emergency, effects of the water shortage are being felt across the state. Hundreds of residents in rural San Joaquin Valley have become the first Californians to run out of tap water, as dwindling flows from the Tule River have caused their wells to dry up. The Marines’ Camp Pendleton has increased its recycled water production by 50 percent, and more than 4,000 wildfires have burned more than 80,000 acres since January 1. Even the mountains are moving — without water to weigh them down, some parts of California’s mountains have moved upward more than half an inch.
But for the rest of the world, words about the drought aren’t as powerful as images of the state’s lakes and reservoirs, once filled with blue and surrounded by healthy green, morphing into reddish brown dirt. Many of them have dropped to water levels below 50 percent, with some nearly dried up. The San Joaquin Valley’s Pine Flat reservoir is filled only 12 percent.
In northern California, Lake Oroville has become so dry that the state had to build a gravel boat launch after all paved boat launches became inaccessible, KRCR News reports. The lake’s dire situation is clear in photos taken in mid-August, compared side by side to 2011 photos of the same region.
Though some parts of California have received small amounts of rain in recent weeks, more than 58 percent of the state is still under “exceptional” drought, the highest level possible. And a single rain won’t necessarily alleviate the harsh conditions, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Thunderstorms may cause floods and intense runoff, as the dried-out land struggles to absorb fast rainfall. “Thunderstorms often produce large amounts of precipitation in a very short time,” the agency’s site reads, “and most of the rain will run off into drainage channels and streams rather than soak into the ground.”
The ongoing drought is part of an overall strange year for weather in the United States, according to NBC News. No year since data was first recorded in 1900 has seen such persistent strays, both warm and cold, from averages, leading to an unusually cool year in the East and an unusually warm year in the West. "We haven't seen this much extreme warmth entrenched alongside this much extreme cold for this long since at least 1900,” Deke Arndt, the National Climatic Data Center’s chief of climate monitoring, told NBC News.
The Green Bridge passes over full water levels at a section of Lake Oroville near the Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California. (Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources/Getty Images)
The Green Bridge passes over low water levels at a section of Lake Oroville near the Bidwell Marina on August 19, 2014, in Oroville, California. Lake Oroville is currently at 32 percent of its total 3,537,577 acre feet, a unit of measurement used to describe large water bodies. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Full water levels are visible in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California. (Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources/Getty Images)
Low water levels are visible in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on August 19, 2014, in Oroville, California. Lake Oroville is currently at 32 percent of its total 3,537,577 acre feet. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The Enterprise Bridge passes over full water levels at a section of Lake Oroville on July 20, 2011, in Oroville, California. (Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources/Getty Images)
The Enterprise Bridge passes over a section of Lake Oroville nearly dry on August 19, 2014, in Oroville, California. Lake Oroville is currently at 32 percent of its total 3,537,577 acre feet. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)