Events & Media

Lake Mead "Bathtub Ring" Group Project Receives Attention
Three articles cite study of impacts resulting if low water levels trigger delivery reductions

The Bren School's 2015 Lake Mead "Bathtub Ring" Master's Group Project was covered in three articles published over three weeks in the influential High Country News. The articles addressed the historic low water levels in the nation's largest reservoir, which captures water from the Colorado River near Las Vegas. From there the water is distributed to millions of users in Arizona, Nevada, and California. But the state's record drought has caused the lake's water level to drop close to levels that could trigger automatic cutbacks in water deliveries through the region.

Drought-reduced flows in the Colorado River have left Lake Mead with an outsized "bathtub ring" that makes western water users nervous.

The June 17 article ran under the headline "Lake Mead watch: six inches from the level that triggers cutbacks." It covered the record May rains in the West, which marginally improved the situation resulting from several years of record drought in the West, and laid out the cuts that would go into effect if the water level were to fall another six inches.

The second article, published on June 24, was titled "Lake Mead watch: As levels fall, hydropower dips" and began by saying, "As water levels in Lake Mead continue to drop, the future of 'the greatest dam in the world' is more precarious than it ever has been...."

On July 1, High Country News published "Lake Mead watch: As the Colorado dries up, will tourism?" The article looked at the effects dropping water levels in Lake Mead could have on regional tourism and references the Bathtub Ring Group Project, which reported that if water falls to the 1,000-foot level, triggering automatic water-delivery cutbacks, economic losses could reach $280 million.

The research cited in all three articles was conducted by Bren School graduates Ning Jiang, Season Martin, Julia Morton, and Skyler Murphy (all MESM 2015) for their Group Project titled "The Bathtub Ring: Implications of Low Water Levels in Lake Mead on Water Supply, Hydropower, Recreation, and the Environment."In their work, the group analyzed the physcial and economic impacts to water deliveries, hydropower generation, recreation, and downstream ecosystems as Lake Mead water levesl decline.

The three articles in three weeks demonstrate the continuing relevance, importance, and real-world application of Bren School Master's Projects, as students develop innovative approaches to understanding and solving complex environmental problems.

Lake Mead "Bathtub Ring" Group Project team members (from left) Ning Jiang, Skyler Murphy, Julia Morton, and Season Martin visited Lake Mead in the research phase of their Group Project.

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