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What Happens When the Lake Mead Hoover Dam Water Levels Hit Critical?

The largest reservoir created by humans in the United States is Lake Mead. It is located on the Colorado River and spans Nevada and Arizona.

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When Lake Mead’s water level continues to drop, nearby communities such as Las Vegas may be at risk.

The largest reservoir created by humans in the United States is Lake Mead. It is located on the Colorado River and spans Nevada and Arizona. The Hoover Dam generates around 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric electricity annually. More than one million people in Nevada, Arizona, and California use it.

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But, as a result of a severe drought in the region, the lake is drying up rapidly. The lake’s water level as of January 15 is 1,045.54 feet. In a few years, though, the lake’s water level might drop as low as 895 feet, which would prevent water from flowing past the barrier.

This would be disastrous for nearby cities like Las Vegas.

Dr. Joellen Russell, a climate scientist and professor at the University of Arizona who is also a member of the organisation Science Moms, told Newsweek: “Lake Mead and Hoover Dam are approximately 100 to 150 feet from ‘dead pool’ conditions, at which point neither water nor electricity will flow from the dam. Hoover Dam produced a large portion of the electricity for over 30 million people at its height, but production has already decreased by a third. Dead pool circumstances would signal the end of all Colorado River water and electricity production.”

It would not only be electricity that would cease to exist. Without Lake Mead, ninety percent of Las Vegas’s water supplies would dry up.

Even if Lake Mead became a “dead pool,” it could still provide Las Vegas with potable water. Yet, there would not be adequate water for agricultural activities.

Twenty years ago, the western United States experienced a megadrought. Recent rainfall has increased the lake’s water level, however this is not a sustainable solution.

Considering the dry spell has lasted for decades, it would take years of rainfall to end the state’s drought.

Human-induced climate change is mostly responsible for the drought.

The US Bureau of Reclamation projects that the water level in Lake Mead will continue to decline at least through 2024. Russell stated that 90 percent of the water flowing down the Colorado River originates from the melting snowpack on the Colorado Plateau. “La Nina circumstances are typically associated with a thinner snowpack, and we are just emerging from a “triple dip” La Nina (three La Nina winters in a row) in which each winter saw below-average snowfall. In addition, we know that 2023 will be a warm year; according to NOAA, the last nine years (2014-2022) were the nine hottest on record (and 2010 was the tenth hottest), thus evaporation will continue to impose downward pressure on the lake level.

Russell added that it would take years of “well above average” snowpack and “much reduced water demand” for Lake Mead to begin to refill.

Russell stated, “You cannot save if you spend regardless of your income.”

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