Friday, September 16, 2016

These Are the Forgotten Victims of the West's Drought

Yomba Indian Reservation, NevadaLast summer Nevada was so dry that rancher Darryl Brady grabbed a shovel and hacked into a dusty pit, once a lush spring that gurgled onto fields thick with wild hay. The snows hadn’t come to the mountains and the river was dry, so Brady was desperately trying to tap into the earth’s watery veins to save his herd of about 85 cattle. But it was a failure; the earth had no water to give. “I remember when I was a kid it would rain and we used to have puddles out here,” Brady said wistfully. “These underground frogs would pop up. Shlurp, shlurp, shlurp, frogs everywhere. Now look at it, it’s all dead, there’s nothing here. The drought is killing everything.” Thanks to hefty snowfall last winter, the water is back this summer. Still Darryl Brady, a Native American rancher on the tiny Yomba Indian Reservation, located in a remote river valley between Reno and Las Vegas, faces tremendous challenges. Much of the world thinks that only California has been devastated by the West’s record-breaking drought. But in Nevada, the nation’s driest state, a much less-publicized but equally devastating water crisis has been playing out over the last five years. Nevada rivers such as the Carson and the Humboldt have dwindled. Massive lakes, such as Walker Lake, at the edge of the Walker River Indian Reservation in western Nevada, have nearly disappeared. Levels of reservoirs such as Rye Patch in northern Nevada have plummeted. Lake Mead, the water source for Las Vegas, dropped to an elevation of 1,073 feet above sea level, the lowest level since the lake was formed by the Hoover Dam in the 1930s. This has forced the desert city’s water supplier to buy up land and groundwater rights in eastern Nevada’s fertile valleys...more

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