This week, Lake Mead’s water levels reached historic lows, putting the largest reservoir in the country fewer than 150 feet from “dead pool,” which occurs when the reservoir is so low that water cannot flow from the dam downstream. The water level of Lake Mead was 1,044.03 feet on Wednesday, which is the lowest level it has been since the lake was filled in the 1930s. Lake Mead would hit dead pool if the reservoir dropped below 895 feet, which is still years away and would have a significant impact on millions of people in Arizona, California, Nevada, and sections of Mexico.
Robert Glennon, an emeritus professor at the University of Arizona who specializes in water law and policy, stated, “This is extremely serious stuff. The depletion of Lake Mead has been caused by ongoing drought conditions over the past 20 years, which have been made worse by climate change and rising water demands in the southwest of the United States. Even though the reservoir is in danger of turning into a dead pool, Glennon predicted that it would probably take a few more years before it did.
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The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and water managers in the southwest United States are working to control the amount of water entering the Colorado River and to control how much water each state in the area uses. These actions are intended to aid in the replenishment of two severely depleted reservoirs: Lake Powell, which was established along the Utah-Arizona border, and Lake Mead, which was developed along the Colorado River on the Arizona-Nevada border when the Hoover Dam was constructed in the early 1930s.
Even before Lake Mead reaches that stage, there are worries that water levels could drop so low that the generation of hydroelectric power would be hampered. A dead pool would not indicate that there was no water left in the reservoir. As the water level in the reservoirs decreases, electricity generation in our western reservoirs becomes an issue,” Glennon added. He continued, as a reservoir is drained, less water flows through turbines and there is less liquid pressure to cause them to spin, which reduces the amount of electricity the turbines generate.
Glennon claimed that recent years had seen unexpectedly big drops in Lake Mead’s water levels. The Bureau of Reclamation estimates that Lake Mead’s elevation was around 1,069 feet at this time last year. At the end of June in 2020, the water level was close to 1,087 feet. An intake valve that had been servicing Nevada consumers since 1971 was uncovered in late April as a result of Lake Mead’s dropping water level. The reservoir’s retreating shoreline led to the discovery of two sets of human remains the following month.
Glennon claimed that the situation at Lake Mead is compelling local authorities to take “dramatic steps” to fill the reservoir, particularly in light of the fact that climate change is anticipated to exacerbate the drought in the West and will continue to have an impact on the amount of water entering the Colorado River. We don’t know if the current drought, which is in its 23rd year, will last for another 23 years, 50 years, or even 100 years. We simply don’t know what will make this turn around.