Wet winter and spring will raise the reservoir for the first time in a decade-

Recently we posted an article how Lake Mead would soon fall to a level that it would no longer be able to generate power. I recently visited (see photo). The drawdown was amazing, but the extreme wet winter and spring upriver will raise the lake for a year for the first time in a decade. The future is still probably bleak for the river’s many water consumers and the downriver wildlife.

Lake Mead replenished by snowfall. Arizona Republic. By Shaun McKinnon.

"Bathtub ring" at Hoover Dam shows the water level of Lake Mead in March 2011. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

44 Responses to Upper Colorado River Basin snowfall gives Lake Mead some replenishment

  1. Alan Gregory says:

    The future still looks grim for users (abusers?) of Colorado River water. And it was my late wife’s dream to move to Tucson, Arizona.

  2. Nancy says:

    Wonder when humans are gonna wake up to the fact that there are just too many of us demanding too much from our natural resources.

    • Savebears says:

      Whats the answer Nancy?

      • Savebears says:

        Do we start forced sterilization, or do we start summary executions to reduce the human population?

      • Savebears says:

        Also take into account through out history, some cultures have in fact tried both to create the master race of more aware humans, it has never worked, and I am not just talking about the Nazi’s wiping out humans to manipulate the world goes way farther back than just the last century..

      • JB says:


        I think there at least 3 ways of dealing with the dilemma: (1) get a handle on population growth (note: this has already happened in post-industrialized countries, most of which have stable or declining populations, and seems to happen “naturally” in societies with strong social welfare systems); (2) decrease per capita consumption (since US residents are at the top, we have the most to lose in this scenario); (3) increase resource disparity (seems to be the new Republican aim)–if a very few have most of the wealth, then per capita consumption will be reduced among the masses, and the rich can only consume so much.

        Or we just wait for the next superbug.

      • Savebears says:


        In reality if we look back through history, the human race does have self regulation happening, although it may not be palatable, it does happen..20+ million dead in WWII, large pandemics, natural disasters, there is a host of things that keep humans dieing…

        it just gets me, I always hear…”when are we going to realize there are to many humans” But who is going to be the first in line to sacrifice themselves to lower the population..it is easy to say we have a problem, but much more difficult to find a solution to that problem, who lives, who dies?

      • JB says:

        “…who is going to be the first in line to sacrifice themselves to lower the population?”

        I don’t think we have to. We can chose to live “smaller” (e.g., by smaller homes, live closer to work, have fewer children, have children later in life, make our homes more energy efficient, etc.).

      • Savebears says:


        Yes we can, but in the overall how many are?

      • JB says:

        Well, you and I makes two. 😉

    • Dude, the bagman says:

      Well, we need to work on the infrastructure level. People aren’t going to voluntarily make environmentally responsible decisions when the incentives run the other way. Moral arguments are useless since our morality has a way of aligning itself with the reality of our incentives. We call that process rationalization.

      We could stop encouraging unsustainable development – like building cities in places where we have to appropriate ALL the water. Since people aren’t going to give up their creature comforts, we could at least encourage efficiency. We could subsidize the behaviors/infrastructure we want by taxing behaviors/products that are environmentally harmful. For example – because gas is so artificially cheap, I know I drive my car more than I really need to. As another example, while home heating isn’t THAT cheap, it’s still cheap enough that I’ll sometimes turn up the thermostat rather than putting on a sweater. If energy was more expensive, we would likely have better insulation and architectural designs that would use less energy. Or maybe give people an incentive to put on a sweater.

      We could challenge the attitude that more babies = better. It’s kind of the elephant in the room that no one is willing to talk about. I look at it this way: resources are finite; there is no shortage of human beings; some people are taking more than their share. Should we really congratulate people for having litters? “You’re having another kid? Oh.” instead of “Congratulations! Eeeee!!!”

      In this day and age, it’s not like having a pile of kids is inevitable. It’s a choice. Often, it’s an irresponsible choice. I don’t care your religion says it’s a sin – that’s your choice and your problem. Maybe they could practice that abstinence they always preach.

      I’m not against people replacing themselves, but we do seem to worship babies while ignoring the fact that they turn into adults. We bitch about other adults plenty.

      Although the current economic trends discourage large families, we could further disincentivize having a bunch of kids. Instead of offering tax deductions for every kid, why not stop at two? Why should everyone else pay for your 3rd, 4th, and 5th kids’ educations? Why not make the parents pay tuition for those kids? Maybe then they’d give a little more thought to having smaller families. Maybe not.

      Of course, this certainly won’t happen in today’s political climate. Democracy isn’t particularly good at making decisions for the future since they usually require present inconvenience. Those kind of decisions aren’t politically popular, and the election cycle tends to discourage them from being made. People don’t care about how polluted the river is until it catches on fire a few times. That seems to be the way we operate. Eventually practical necessity will make drastic changes to our lifestyles a reality whether we agree to plan ahead or not.

      • Nancy says:

        Dude – yeah, yeah, yeah and yeah…..on all points you bring up.

      • Dude, the bagman says:

        Just doing my part to preach to the choir.

      • Christopher Harbin says:


      • WM says:


        Guess I better not mention the US Census just reported last month, 1 in 6 people living in the US is Hispanic, and guess who is the largest group contributing to new births, with largest families, and often least economic means to care for them? Also true that 1 in 15 births in the US is to an illegal immigrant parent.

        Yeah, I’ll wait for the usual “”you’re just a racist” comments in reply. This has little to do with race, and more to do with unprecidented cultural and economic change that the politicians of this country do not have the cojones to deal with. The R’s want the cheap labor and the D’s want everybody to be in the world to be middle class (and the votes, even if that means the current middle class does with less – and maybe that is not a bad thing in some respects).

      • Dude, the bagman says:

        WM – there’s a difference between acknowledging cultural differences and measured demographic trends and being a racist. Although it’s often a thin line. I wouldn’t call you a racist for acknowledging that we have a political/economic problem when it comes to immigration policy. I wouldn’t blame the immigrants for sneaking into this country to pursue a better life either.

        The R’s want to keep their jobs in the legislature by providing cheap labor, low taxes, and regulations for the rich; and by providing religious fervor and military campaigns for the working class.

        The D’s want to keep their jobs in the legislature by sounding less crazy than the R’s and by not taking anything away from the middle class.

        The overwhelming concern of both is keeping their jobs. Even if they have noble intentions, they don’t get a chance to promote them unless they get elected. It’s hard to do that without corporate funding.

  3. Nancy says:

    Education would be my best guess SB. Seems just about every other species on this planet regulates their own unless they are impacted to a negative degree by humans.

    Hey, just tossing that out there! Beautiful day here for a change, listened to sandhills, geese, ducks over on the meadow while puttering around outside. Watched a moose, front knees on the ground, grazing and…. the first group of antelope working their way up the valley.

    • Savebears says:


      I will agree, it is indeed a beautiful day, the snow is melting, I ran into a flock of Sandhills this morning doing their dance, the moose are pretty scarce up my way right now, but I am sure there will be a couple as we get close to summer and yesterday, I had a black bear sitting down in the middle of the road refusing to let me pass, so life it good, the world is awaking again..

    • wolf moderate says:

      Went for a drive to Garden Valley today to look at some property. The elk were everywhere. Didn’t see any deer until I got almost all the way back to Boise, which surprised me. Glad that the weather is finally getting better for you Nancy. Summer is almost here!

      As for the educational aspects of population control, it just doesn’t seem to work. We, as a country have spend billions of dollars in Africa, yet there continues to be an epidemic of AIDS. China enacted the 1 child rule and it has had unintended consequences that most did not forsee. England and France’s population has stabilized and even started to decrease, so muslims have started to move to the countries.

      Here in the United States, the hispanic population has exploded. Partially due to illegal immigration, but also because they are mostly Catholics who do not believe in contraception (IMO of course lol). Education does not seem to work when religion is involved.

      Have a good weekend.

      • Dude, the bagman says:

        I certainly agree that people are going to keep breeding even if they know better. If we want to discourage behavior, we have to stop encouraging it first.

      • Nancy says:

        +Education does not seem to work when religion is involved+
        And thats the biggest problem I feel our species is gonna have to deal with some day down the road Wolf Mod

  4. Immer Treue says:

    The superbug is on it’s way. Zero population growth, if practiced, would work.

    • Woody says:

      Earth needs a negative growth of humans.

    • WM says:


      Actually ZPG is a difficult concept in practice. We have built the economics of our societies around the idea that we need replacement equal to or greater than the previous generations. That is, in part, why social security in this country is so screwed up. The demographics are off for the system to work properly as currently designed. Also why a contributing factor why much of Europe is faltering – no young and eager labor force.

      On the other hand, we are bringing in labor to the US via legal and illegal immigration. Some of those folks haven’t heard of contraception (or for religous reasons intentionally ignore it), and the US has created a safety net so all newborns will be cared for. So, hey what a country -come on in and make lots and lots of babies!

      Then there is Africa, where groups like PATH and the Bill Gates Foundation are providing birthing kits to increase survival rates (moral issue there). And just remember, notwithstanding contraception in China, one in four people on the earth live in China, and one in three live in China or India (which still hasn’t figured out the birth control thing, either).

      And do remember, in most cultures, people are living longer and longer at substantially greater cost because of advancements in medicine, and changes in life style (fewer smokers, beter diet).

      Anybody know the plot of Tom Clancy’s book, Rainbow 6?

      • Savebears says:

        I really don’t think we have as much of a population problem as we do a management problem..

      • WM says:


        …management problem? Say more.

      • Immer Treue says:


        Somewhat in order…

        No reason why ZPG in this country can’t work, at least prior to the great influx of illegals, yet, illegals had ways into the country other than Ellis Island in the past. I know, it’s tough to tell someone they don’t have the right to make a living, then again big business seems to be telling so many just that.

        If employers contribute to illegal SS funds, then should there not be more money coming into the system, as illegals will never collect from the system?

        I’ve mentioned before, but 20 years ago I attended the only Sierra Club meeting I’ve ever been to. A guest demographer told the members that the US had a good chance at achieving ZPG, IF we could prevent illegal immigration. The Shit then hit the fan…

        Africa, little idea of what contraception is. AIDS rampant as daughters forced practice prostitution to bring a bit of money into family units.

        Was it your father who recently passed away? I mean this with all due respect to you and anybody else who’s parent is in a convalescent home. I feed my mother a couple times a week and my brother has asked the metaphorical question, “Is this what’s in store for us?” And the “others” think the way a wolf kills is cruel?

        Perhaps whomever contributes to the current line of thought should listen to Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi as they write

      • WM says:


        Have you seen the movie, which includes Glass’ music? I saw it a couple of years after it came out, and then spent two weeks in remote parts of Canyonlands NP, contemplating it.

      • Immer Treue says:


        Yes, I have seen the movie, somewhere about 20 years ago, and I believe I viewed it again ~ 15 years ago or so. I am actually listening to the sound track as we “talk”.

        I recall having a bit of trouble getting into the movie and my initial exposure to Philip Glass, but once the movie “took off” I was forever imprinted. One can’t listen to a steady diet of Glass, but he is one of those composers who’s work is unmistakable, and perhaps somewhat hypnotic.

  5. Nancy says:

    +it just gets me, I always hear…”when are we going to realize there are to many humans” But who is going to be the first in line to sacrifice themselves to lower the population+

    Baptist father, Catholic mother – 7 brothers and sisters. Wasn’t a hard decision when I hit 20, to for go adding to the population.

    • Dude, the bagman says:

      The Dude’s special lady was the oldest of 5. They didn’t grow up with a ton of money. She came to the same conclusion.

      I think that’s a common circumstance for the oldest of large families. By the time they have reached 20 they may have already changed a lifetime’s worth of diapers.

      • Nancy says:

        And that’s just another aspect of too many humans – the trash and what to do with it. I seem to recall disposable diapers made the news a few years ago……….

      • wolf moderate says:

        Another thing is the people like many of us on this site, buying property on the edge of wilderness and NF lands and building compounds. I would bet that many have 1500+ sqft cabins/houses that live out in the country. Shouldn’t we just restore the land to it’s natural state and live in a studio in town? Seems a bit hypocritical slamming people who decide to have kids (I have chosen not to have kids due to the “jobless recovery” that will be America’s new economic reality FOREVER).

        Anywho, I went to look at a 1 acre lot in the country and YES I am a hypocrite lol!

      • Dude, the bagman says:

        To paraphrase George Carlin: “If these diaper-sniffing babymongers would stop having so many of these cross-eyed little-kids, maybe the rest of us would have a chance to spread out and have a little fun.”

        It’s definitely hypocritical to cry about habitat destruction while you destroy habitat to build a house. Or to bitch about cows but still eat beef. Or to bitch about the price of oil but still buy coffee and bananas shipped from South America as you drive home from the grocery store.

        We’re all hypocrites to some degree. We all benefit from the standard of living our technology has made possible. We’ve all probably paid some price for it as well. We’ve probably bitched about it one way or the other.

        That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t acknowledge our problems rather than being paralyzed by our own complicity. It also doesn’t mean that some hypocrisies aren’t more harmful than others. We could at least be conscientious and honest about what we’re doing. Part of this could be deciding not to have a third kid, buy a fuel-efficient car rather than bitch about the cost of gas, living in a reasonably sized house in a less environmentally sensitive area rather than a ski lodge in the middle of endangered species habitat, etc.. These decisions would likely have benefits of their own, and should not be thought of strictly as sacrifices.

        I don’t think anyone can seriously argue that we should have NO environmental impact or live like monks. That’s just not realistic. People are going to do what feels good., but there’s a middle ground between unreflecting consumerism and asceticism. You can’t blame people for wanting a better quality of life, but you can set limits when pursuing self interest becomes obnoxiously detrimental to everyone else. That’s why we have laws and government.

        I thought this was a pretty good blurb: http://www.hcn.org/blogs/range/rants-from-the-hill-what-would-edward-abbey-do

  6. Elk275 says:

    Somewhere, someplace the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, pestilence, war, famine and death are saddle up and will soon ride again.

    I know, this is from the Bible and the Book of Revelations, but regardless there is truth to it.

  7. Nancy says:

    Wolf Mod, some of us also buy existing structures – my little place is 50 years old and 900 square feet. Suits me just fine.

  8. Immer Treue says:

    Wolf Mod,

    Place I have in MN is 1000 square feet at best, and is probably close to 100 years old (has been moved and added on to a bit). It’s all I need.

    • wolf moderate says:

      1000 SQ FT? That’s huge! I’m putting 20′ travel trailer on mine! Ha, my carbon footprint is smaller than yours 😉

      • Immer Treue says:

        I think I’d rather be in a tent!

      • wolf moderate says:

        Damned liberal elitists w/ there 1000 foot cottages blighting the countryside!

      • Immer Treue says:

        But I give it all back in terms of blood to mosquitoes and black flies. Philosophically I look at as I am the base of the food chain.

      • Dude, the bagman says:

        That’s a good way to look at it – the circle of life and all.

        Personally, I feel a lot less warm and fuzzy toward nature when I’m competing for resources with the horseflies, ticks, and mosquitoes. Especially when that resource is a part of my body. At that point I’d rather be an ecosystem unto myself.

  9. Doryfun says:

    I agree with most everything said by all above, but guess I have pretty much given up on any hope we, as humans, will ever do much about controling our own numbers, aside from complaining and adding rhetoric. Ever since ZPG came out years ago, I have advocated for incentives that favor ZPG. But it seems religion and moralaity is too ingrained. Wouldn’t it be simplilar to just change our flag to green, with dollar signs, and march to that, as we already do, anyway. By evidence of the repition of history, over and over like a broken record, we never seem to learn anything from it. Nature rules. She will always have the last word.

    Is the glass half empty, or half full? Neither, it is about to gush over the top and the nature of gravity will prevail.


April 2011


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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