Lake Mead’s water levels dropped to historic lows this week, bringing the country’s largest reservoir within 50 feet of “dead pool” — when the reservoir is so low that water can’t flow downstream from the dam.
The water level of Lake Mead on Wednesday it was measured at 1,044.03 feet, the lowest elevation since the lake was backfilled in the 1930s. If the reservoir drops below 895 feet † a possibility years away – Lake Mead would reach a dead pool, with huge consequences for millions of people in Arizona, California, Nevada and parts of Mexico.
“This is deadly serious,” said Robert Glennon, a professor emeritus at the University of Arizona who specializes in water law and policy.
Continued droughts over the past two decades, exacerbated by climate change and increased water demand in the southwestern United States, have contributed to Lake Mead’s depletion. While the reservoir is at risk of becoming a dead pool, it would most likely take several more years to reach that level, Glennon said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and water authorities in the Southwestern United States are working to improve water flow into the Colorado River and regulate water use between states in the region† These measures are intended to help replenish Lake Mead, which formed on the Colorado River on the Arizona-Nevada border when the Hoover Dam was built in the early 1930s, and another severely depleted reservoir, Lake Powell, which was created along the border of Utah and Arizona.
Dead pool wouldn’t mean there was no water left in the reservoir, but even before Lake Mead reached that point, there are concerns that the water level could drop so low that hydroelectric power production would be hampered.
“Generating electricity in our western reservoirs becomes a problem as the water level in the reservoirs drops,” Glennon said.
As a reservoir empties, less water flows through turbines and there is less fluid pressure to spin them, meaning the turbines produce less electricity, he added.
Glennon said water levels at Lake Mead have unexpectedly dropped significantly in recent years. Last year around the same time, Lake Mead’s elevation was measured at approximately 1,069 feet, according to the Bureau of Reclamation† In 2020, the water levels were around 1087 feet at the end of June.
End of April, Lake Mead’s Falling Water Level Has Uncovered an Intake Valve which first began supplying Nevada customers in 1971. The next month two sets of human remains have been discovered due to the receding shoreline of the reservoir.
Glennon said the situation at Lake Mead is forcing local officials to take “dramatic steps” to replenish the reservoir, especially as climate change is expected to exacerbate drought in the West and increase the amount of water flowing into the Colorado River. will continue to affect.
“This is the 23rd year of drought and we don’t know if it’s a 23-year drought, a 50-year drought or maybe a 100-year drought,” he said. “We just don’t know what’s going to change this.”