Bathe in the reprieve
A writer revels in a cherished sound in the Southwest: The sound of mountain water.
In recent years, the major story in the American Southwest has been about drought and ominously early runoff. For a time, it looked as if Lake Powell, that great splish-splash of desert amusement in Utah, might even shrink into a dead pool, with too little water in it to produce electricity. Lake Mead near Las Vegas, when I visited last December, was at its lowest level since 1938, shortly after Hoover Dam was constructed. Las Vegas, which draws most of its water from Lake Mead, is boring a new $700 million tunnel. In case things get really bad, the tunnel will enter the bottom of the reservoir to draw water. Now, that's hedging your bets. This summer, it all seems less dire. A La Niña winter left Arizona and New Mexico kindle-dry, ripe for fires, but snowpacks in much of Colorado, Utah and New Mexico crowded the record books. Spring glanced over its shoulder at the lingering winter, augmenting the deep already snows and delaying runoff. That runoff is now filling headwater reservoirs and downstream, partially eclipsing the bathtub rings in the two giant buckets in the desert, Powell and Mead. Boat ramps abandoned in recent years for lack of water are suddenly once again functional.