Lake Mead at Hoover Dam Reaches a Record Low

Long drought is leading to water shortages
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2021 7:05 PM CDT
Updated Jun 7, 2021 7:40 PM CDT
Hoover Dam Water Shortage Is Effect of Long Drought
This 2015 file photo shows the white "bathtub ring" of mineral deposits already visible well above the receding waters of Lake Mead near the Hoover Dam.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

One of the purposes of the Hoover Dam when it was built more than 80 years ago was flood control. Unfortunately, that's not a problem right now. Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by the dam, is at its lowest point since its completion in 1935 and is just 37% full, the Arizona Republic reports. A years-long drought linked to climate change has drained the lake, leaving a white "bathtub ring" of mineral deposits high above the water. Sparse snows in the Rocky Mountains mean little runoff into the Colorado River, which the dam interrupts at the border between Nevada and Arizona. The dam also has power turbines that supply electricity to the region. The drought meant new blades were required that could operate in shallower water, CBS News reports.

But when the waters recede even more, the electricity production could stop altogether: that would happen below 950 feet, and the level is expected to be at 1,066 feet by year's end. Lake Mead supplies water for Las Vegas, Phoenix, and parts of Southern California. Now, with the Colorado River Basin in its driest year on record, there is likely to be a shortage by August. Rising temperatures mean less and less snow, and less and less flow. Farmers who rely on water from Lake Mead are rushing to dig wells, per CBS News. Conservation efforts have postponed the inevitable, but years of drought have already taken their toll.
(More Hoover Dam stories.)

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