Climate takes economic toll

If the economic prognosis for Nevada is poor, the climate prospects are no better.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center warned “The Drought Outlook valid through the end of November 2012 indicates drought conditions will remain essentially unchanged in large sections of the central Mississippi Valley, the central and southwestern Great Plains, most of the High Plains, the central Rockies, the Great Basin, and parts of the Far West.”

Nevada occupies most of the Great Basin.

The relentless heat and nearly nonexistent rain is also compromising the nation’s ability to generate energy.

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that operators of Hoover Dam and other hydroelectric dams across the nation are scrambling “for ways to produce the same amount of power from the hydroelectric grid with less water.” Nor is hydroelectric generation the only casualty of the drought. “[L]ow water levels affect coal-fired and nuclear power plants’ operations and impede the passage of coal barges along the Mississippi River.”

Business Insider reported that “virtually all power plants, whether they are nuclear, coal or natural gas-fired, are completely dependent on water for cooling. … Given the drought, many facilities are overheating, and utilities are shutting them down or running their plants at lower capacity. Few Americans know (or up to this point have cared) that the country’s power plants account for about half of all the water used in the United States. For every gallon of residential water used in the average U.S. household, five times more is used to provide that home with electricity via hydropower turbines and fossil fuel power plants, roughly 40,000 gallons each month.”