Water shortage? With the population increase west of the Rocky Mountains, is it time to finally close the Moffat tunnel?

Many years ago the city of Denver had a problem. The land east of the Rocky mountains is dry, rain is sparse and the aquifers were being depleted. The city was growing rapidly, still small by today’s standard, but they were thinking big and looked for a really good water supply. There was one fairly nearby: the Colorado river. There was only one small problem, it was on the other side of the continental divide. They were building a railroad tunnel under the continental divide anyway, so for a few million dollars extra they added a water tunnel, with a capacity of 36 m3/s of water flow, and it has been draining water from the Colorado River basin since 1936.

As an engineering feat it was quite impressive, and the population west of the Rocky Mountains was minuscule. This has changed and the demand for water in the Southwest is enormous and increasing. Las Vegas alone is now about the same size as the City of Denver. (The Denver Region is about 5.5 million)

 

 

 

 

 

Much of the water in the Colorado River basin is used for agricultural purposes.

 

 

This is important: The Colorado River water is all spoken for. It never reaches the Gulf of California. Once upon a time there was a good shrimp harvest at the mouth of the Colorado River. No more.

In the mean time, water is diverted from the Colorado River Basin to the Mississippi River Basin. There the problem is the opposite: What levees to build next to prevent more and more flooding.

Time to shut down the Moffat Tunnel.

 

The Moffat tunnel, Continental theft of water. A Limerick

What flows through the tunnel of Moffat?

It’s water for Denver’s own profit.

When South-West tries to sue.

Will they win, get their due?

I never was much of a prophet.

The Moffat tunnel in Colorado, built in 1928 is a six mile railroad and water  tunnel that goes under the continental divide. The water tunnel carries up to 105 acre-feet of water per hour to the City of Denver. The water is taken from the Colorado river watershed, which leaves the South Western states with nearly one million acre-feet less water per year.

When the tunnel was built this was not much of a problem, Nevada had less than 100, 000 inhabitants, Arizona less than 350,000 and California about 3.5 million people. Now Nevada has 25 times as many people, Arizona 15 times as many , and California 10 times as many people, all thirsty for more water.

It is time to stop robbing the South-west of water. Yes Denver has its own water problem, but the South West has much greater problem.

Lake Mead water level is now 140 feet below full capacity, and has been dropping about 10 feet per year, and will run dry unless drastic measures are taken. The Moffat tunnel takes away about 6 feet a year from the filling of Lake Mead.

Yes, thanks to this year’s rain, Lake Mead has recovered somewhat, but the long trend is still ominous.

And by the way, this has nothing to do with Climate Change.