Critical Condition: Lake Mead At Drought Level – Follow Up

In a follow up to an earlier story I wrote on this issue, the news out West is rather daunting: Lake Mead is at the lowest water level since the Hoover Dam was finished and the Colorado River reservoir was established back in the 1930s.


This vital reservoir which provides water to about 40 million people in its service area, is according to the AP, currently 39 percent full and 1,082 feet above sea level. These figures are alarming, they are even lower than the data recorded in November 2010 during that terrible drought, which I covered in my earlier piece on this issue. Lake Mead is at the lowest point since 1937.


In contrast, Lake Powell is 52% full and through the process known as control management, which I detailed in my original article, the two lakes can have water shifted from one to the other to balance out any deficiencies in the water level. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is considering utilizing both control management and conservation protocols in order to address the plummeting water level in Lake Mead.


Multi-faceted Cause for Concern


The current state of Lake Mead leaves a multi-faceted cause for concern at this point because not only is Lake Mead a popular recreational area and attached to the Hoover Dam which is a huge tourist attraction; the lake is also the main source of water supply for Las Vegas and the millions of visitors that resort city attracts each year.


I detailed in my earlier piece that Las Vegas already has multiple conservation methods in place and is very environmentally conscious with their reuse of water and other natural resources. Any type of water supply delivery cuts would have a significant impact on Las Vegas and both the residential population as well as the tourism industry which is the backbone of the entire state of Nevada’s economy.


The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation asserts that through the control management and other conservation methods they plan to employ, they should be able to stave off any water delivery cuts for a full year. The summer of 2015 though could be a very different scenario, and if these drought conditions continue, then delivery cuts to the water supply will have a detrimental impact on the Las Vegas area during the crucial summer vacation travel period.


In addition, a water supply cut during the summer months where the hottest temperatures will be experienced in the Lake Mead service area will create massive public health concerns.


Keeping Watch


The government entities involved will continue to monitor the water levels in Lake Mead and the other Colorado River based reservoirs to insure water supply deliveries are not altered in the coming weeks and months.


However, this drought raises concerns again over the demographic shifts in population growth to the American West, and whether the infrastructure can adequately sustain the new burdens placed on those systems.


This situation also raises more questions about climate change and the impact that it has had on the supply of water to the Colorado River, which then supplies Lake Mead and Lake Powell.


The unfortunate conclusion here is that this drought raises more questions that we do not have answers for at this point. It also points to the need for a longer term solution as these factors which drive the potential for water supply interruption are not going away any time soon.


(Statistics and some background information courtesy of AP )



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