Lake Mead Doesn’t Runneth Over Anymore

Lake Mead, the United States’ largest man-made reservoir, is shrinking. The Nevada reservoir is now encircled with a sand colored “bathtub ring,” showing the area that was once filled with water.

Formed by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead sits between Arizona and Nevada. But as of Sunday, the lake hit 1,081.7 feet, a new low. This puts the lake at the lowest level since the 1930s. The change over the past two years has been so staggering that  the change can now be seen from outer space:

Credit: NASA

The shrinking of Nevada’s Lake Mead can be seen from outer space.
Credit: NASA


The significant drop in water is caused by a 14 year drought in the western U.S., which scientists say is one of the most severe in 1,200 years.

Lake Mead is has lost 4 trillion gallons of water since 2000. Although water storage and conservation efforts are in place, there isn’t much hope that the lake – now at only 39% capacity — will return to normal levels anytime soon.

The effects of this shortage will be felt far and wide.  If Lake Mead keeps dropping, it would lead to water shortages in Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. Lake Mead supplies water for 25 million people, countless acres of farmland, and almost all of Las Vegas’ drinking water. Ripple effects would also be felt in California, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Time to turn off those sprinklers and start re-using bath tub water? Maybe.

Credit: Lake Scientist website

The sand-colored “bathtub ring” shows where water once was.
Credit: Lake Scientist website

As other reservoirs continue dropping, states such as California have been forced to institute mandatory water curbs to correspond with the dwindling water supply. And scientists say that with warming temperatures, this problem will be exacerbated in the coming years.

To keep this problem in check, eventually we may have to adopt water-saving incentives, including water recycling, water pricing, and reusing runoff agricultural water. As long as this drought continues, we  have to get our water consumption in check before Lake Mead is no more.


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The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team

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This entry was posted in Drought, General, Nature.