Lake Mead’s level drops 130ft.

In Americas, Drought & Fires, News Headlines

An aerial photo taken Saturday shows the marina operations in Lake Mead’s Hemenway Harbor, just down the hill from Boulder City.

All of the docks shown used to be located elsewhere but had to be moved to their present locations because of the reservoir’s falling water level.

A “bathtub ring” of white rock marks a 128-foot drop in the water level of Lake Mead since 1999. This aerial photo was taken Saturday, the day before the reservoir shrank to its lowest level since 1937, when it was filled for the first time.

The reservoir on the Colorado River hasn’t been down this far since 1937, when it was being filled for the first time behind the newly
completed Hoover Dam.

Since drought took hold on the Colorado and its tributaries in 1999, the surface of Lake Mead has plunged almost 130 feet and caused fits for the National Park Service and its marina operators who must extend roads, utilities and other services to reach the shrinking shoreline.

The lake’s decline poses major problems for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which draws 90 percent of the Las Vegas Valley’s drinking water from intake pipes that will start to shut down should the lake fall another 33 feet.

“I’m worried,” authority General Manager Pat Mulroy said. “We’re trying everything we can to keep as much water in Mead as we can.”

The prognosis looks bleak. Mulroy said federal climate forecasters are predicting abnormally dry conditions during the next two winters in the mountains that feed the Colorado.

If the lake drops another 8 feet, federal officials will declare a shortage on the river, an unprecedented move that would cut Nevada’s river share by about 6 percent.

The best Colorado River users can hope for at this point, Mulroy said, is to push that shortage declaration off for a year or two “and then hope the hydrology turns around.”

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