Lake Mead is reaching record lows as Las Vegas and the western U.S. suffer under massive drought.
The last time Lake Mead, the massive reservoir behind the Hoover Dam which provides water to 25 million people in three states and Mexico was considered full was 2000. Now, the water level has fallen 160 feet to the lowest level recorded in the reservoir’s 90 year history. White salt shows the previous level of the lake in a vivid visual of just how much it has changed.
There are three intakes in the deep lake which provide water to Las Vegas, and right now the uppermost one, at 1050 feet elevation, is high and dry four feet above the surface, when it should be a hundred feet down. There’s another intake at 1000 feet elevation. If the water falls to that point, none will be able to be released through Hoover Dam, and the great turbines that power a massive section of the country would cease to turn.
A third, deeper intake is near the bottom of Lake Mead, at 895 feet above sea level. This intake has been opened as of this week, according to the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
“While this emphasizes the seriousness of the drought conditions, we have been preparing for this for more than a decade,” said Bronson Mack, water authority spokesman. The low-level intake allows Las Vegas “to maintain access to its primary water supply in Lake Mead, even if water levels continue to decline due to ongoing drought and climate change conditions,” he said.
The southwest is considered to be in a ‘megadrought,’ and water consumption cuts along the Colorado River began in January.
The falling water levels have had another consequence – Las Vegas’s sordid history has been resurfacing. A corroded oil drum containing human remains from some time before 1990 was discovered on the lake-bed on Sunday, and police expect many more to be found before waters rise again.