Lake Mead Drought

March 15, 2010

20100314 – Sunday - Lake Mead Drought

Photographer: Brandy Rolin
Summary Author: Brandy Rolin; Jim Foster; Stu Witmer

The photo above showing a parched landscape and thirsty reservoir was taken at one of the inlets of Lake Mead, Arizona on June 27, 2009. Prolonged drought conditions in the lower Colorado River Basin have rendered this region a near wasteland. From late 2000 until March of 2010, the lake capacity plummeted from 96 percent to roughly 45 percent. At Hoover Dam, where water level measurements are taken, the level has fallen over 100 ft (32 m) since 2000. The drop off as shown here is quite obvious. A 10 percent decrease in the water level translates to almost a 50 percent decrease in water volume for Lake Mead.

Though droughts aren’t unusual in the southwestern U.S., this one has been especially serious since the population has exploded in recent decades, due in part to the tremendous growth in and around Las Vegas, Nevada. There’s concern by local officials and government agencies (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation) alike that the Colorado River flow and the water impounded at Hoover Dam may soon be unable to meet the ever increasing demands of the surrounding area. Researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego concluded in a study last year that if drier than normal conditions persist and water consumption is uncurbed, Lake Mead could practically dry up by the year 2021. Note the red tie line to keep boaters away.