Water Crisis: Lake Mead, Largest US Reservoir, Faces Federal “Water Emergency,” Forced Rationing

Leak Mead – on your left, when you drive from Las Vegas across the Hoover Dam – is the largest reservoir in the country when at capacity. It’s fed by the Colorado River which provides water for agriculture, industry, and 40 million people in Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Now after 15 years of drought, the “lake” – a mud puddle surrounded by a huge chalky bathtub ring – is threatening to run dry.

It’s considered “operationally full” when the water level is at 1,229 feet elevation above sea level. On May 2, the water level was down to 1,078.9 feet above sea level, the lowest since it was being filled in May 1937. It’s down 15 feet from the same day a year ago. Over the last 36 months, the water level has dropped 44.8 feet. It’s down 150 feet from capacity.

If the water level is below 1,075 feet elevation – 4 feet below today’s level – by January 1, 2016, it will trigger a federal water emergency. And water rationing. Las Vegas Review Journal reported that forecasters expect the level to drop to 1073 feet by June, before Lake Powell would begin to release more water. Assuming “average or better snow accumulations in the mountains that feed the Colorado River – something that’s happened only three times in the past 15 years,” the water level on January 1 is expected to be barely above the federal shortage level.

Even with these somewhat rosy assumptions of “average or better than average snow accumulations,” the water level would begin set new lows next April. But if the next winter is anything like the last few, all bets are off.

If the level drops below 1050 feet, one of the two intake pipes for the Las Vegas Valley, which gets 90% of its water that way, will run dry. A new $817-million tunnel is being built by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to create a new drain to get the last drop out of the bathtub. It should be ready by September.

The LA Times explains what water rationing would mean for the states:

Las Vegas has long been at a disadvantage when it comes to Lake Mead water. A 1922 Colorado River water-sharing agreement among seven Western states — one still in effect nearly a century later — gives southern Nevada the smallest amount of all; 300,000 acre-feet a year, compared with California’s 4.4 million annual acre-feet. An acre-foot can supply two average homes for one year.

This summer, officials will make their projection for Lake Mead water in January 2016. If the estimate is below 1,075 feet, rationing kicks in: Southern Nevada would lose 13,000 acre-feet per year and Arizona would lose 320,000 acre-feet. California’s portion would not be affected.

Note the last sentence – that California would not be affected. Keeping lawns green in LA is top priority.

“Between Lake Mead and Lake Powell, you have over 50 million acre feet in storage when they’re full,” explained Pat Mulroy, former general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority from 1991 until she retired in 2014. “To have them both go down to a quarter of their capacity is a pretty scary proposition,” she said.

Here she is, via Brookings, on the water crisis at Lake Mead, with ghostly images of the lake and of Hover Dam sitting high and dry:

To get through the drought, residents and growers in California’s Central Valley have been pumping water from aquifers to take a shower, fill a glass with water, irrigate almond orchards, or do a million other things. But now, it turns out, those aquifers, whose water levels are already dropping, are threatened by something else. NBC Bay Area video…. Fracking Wastewater Injected into Clean Aquifers in Parched California

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  23 comments for “Water Crisis: Lake Mead, Largest US Reservoir, Faces Federal “Water Emergency,” Forced Rationing

  1. michael says:

    California is a desert, more so Nevada. The government in California has no clue. Lawns, why do you have lawns in a desert? I have installed dual flush fixtures on my toilets to reduce my water needs. I capture the water in my shower in a bucket as it warms and use it for my plants outside. I have stored water from the winter rains I will use to irrigate my exterior plants. I am one person, the state should take notes, but they will not because its more important to them to to invite a bunch of illegals to relocate and build a stupid high speed rail train no one will use.

    • wookiebunny says:

      I hope you know it’s illegal to capture rainwater and people get hefty fines and even go to jail for it. The bass turds think they own the water. So beware of that bull crap! Also, sadly, the rain water is poisoned with aluminum and other nasty toxic minerals and poisons because it’s all full of chemtrail crap. So don’t drink it, whatever you do!

  2. mick says:

    Another orchestrated crisis IMO. Water rations for the users of less than 20% while the users of 80% are free to increase their usage. All this stuff is going to crash down on the US simultaneously, from economic collapse, to social unrest, to water/food shortages.
    And who knows what else? Seems every month a new crisis raises it’s head.

    • Dee says:

      You just hit the nail on the head, Mick. You’re one of the few of us who “gets it.”

  3. Christoph Weise says:

    Any information on water usage by tracking companies in the last years?

  4. Ben says:

    1937-2015. Well, Homo sapiens started his journey from Africa. Human history is miles too small compared to the Earth climate history.

  5. Dan Romig says:

    Perhaps there is a link to the lack of rain over California with chemtrails and HAARP.

    To the other side of the supply & demand equation, the over use of water in Las Vegas and Phoenix, among other cities, has been going on for decades. Swimming pools and golf courses evaporate water to the atmosphere non-stop, and adding fracking and irrigation to the mix gets us to where we are today. Forty years ago, the Colorado river flowed quite a lot into the Gulf of California, but for the two decades, there’s been hardly a trickle left.

    As I look out at the Mississippi from my home in Minneapolis, I feel blessed to have an abundance of water flowing by daily, but many others in Minnesota are having different water issues. Nitrate run-off from agriculture’s use of fertilizer has poisoned the aquafers that feed private and city wells along the Minnesota river and southern parts of the state. Adding to the damage is the accumulation of glyphosate (RoundUp from Monsanto) in the water supply as well.

    • leftcoastindependent says:

      Same toxic situation in CA. If you drive down Hwy. 99 through Fresno/ Bakersfield in the summer, the whole place stinks like manure, and pesticides. No way would I drink ground water there. If we don’t have a heavy snow season later this year, then next year will probably be when the ag rationing will start and the jobs disappear. Housing will go bust in the southwest. Here we go again.

  6. Julian the Apostate says:

    I spent a whole week running back and forth between LA and Oregan. Shasta Lake looked more river than lake, with the same bathtub rings as at Hoover dam. The desert is creeping north in the Central Valley, almost half way. Signs litter the highway protesting Sacramento’s mishandling of the water. It is very sad. My Grandparents lived through the dust bowl in Nebraska, now it’s California’s turn. Freight is still slow I barely have 7000 miles on the clock since the 12th of April. A normal month is 10,000 +

  7. John G. says:

    Tell the DoD to stop the damn chemtrailing — in full force for 15-16 years, now — and I would wager that the normal rain pattern — monsoon rains in summer and full winter rains — would return quickly.

    Hilarious, that we have to pay taxes to have government poison us via fluoride, chemtrails, and EM radiation. May our government fall, fall hard, and soon.

  8. sangell says:

    Any meteorologists out there? Death Valley is some 280 feet below sea level. What if you filled it with sea water to make it a deeper version of the Salton Sea. Any chance evaporation from such a large deep body of water would put enough moisture into the atmosphere to create more rain.

    Along the lines of William Shatner’s pitiful 4 foot pipeline from the Columbia River to California ( has he ever dried to fill a swimming pool with a straw) the Great Lake contain 5500 cubic miles of water.
    One cubic mile of water would cover the entire city of San Francisco to a depth of more than 100 feet or be the equivalent of 12 inches of rain on 5280 square miles of Central Valley farmland. A pipeline/tunnel path to the Colorado River Basin with a capacity of 1 cubic mile of water per year could serve the West drought years and feed water back to the Great Lakes during wet years. If you made the maximum draw on the Great Lakes 20 cubic miles it would be less than 1/2 percent of their volume and would have hardly any effect on them.

    We used to think big in this country. We may have to do so again.

    • Jeff says:

      You people in California can keep your hands off of the Great Lakes, o.k.! You want it all, the nice weather, no real winter, etc. and then when things aren’t Alice in Wonderland you want to steal another region’s resources to “fix” your problems. Well forget it!! And as far as the threat that you guys grow all the produce in the USA, that was NOT the case until the middle of the last century when produce farming was consolidated in the central valley area. Before that time produce was grown all over the southern USA and still could be . . .

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Jeff, the folks in Southern California have been trying to siphon out water from the “Delta,” which is where the Sacramento River goes into the Bay (“Northern California”). The canal wouldn’t be nearly as long as one from the Great Lakes to LA. But man! Every time they bring it up, and get the Governor to hype it, we throw such a hissy fit that the plan dies.

        In California, no one wants to give up even a drop of water!

        • sangell says:

          Hope this doesn’t duplicate a post I just made that seems to have disappeared but I admit tapping the Great Lakes would not only be controversial it would also require Canadian consent along with a number of US states. However, to show that I am not a greedy Californian ( I did mention putting the water back during wet years which the West has been known to have) draining Lake Tahoe would also work .

          Lake Tahoe contains some 36 cubic miles of water. Draining it would make up California and Nevada’s deficit for a quarter of a century. Further, lake front property owners could be compensated by selling land in the huge Alpine Valley draining Tahoe would leave behind. Even more revenue ( and carbon free energy) would be obtained from the enormous hydroelectric potential 36 cubic miles of water over one mile above sea level represents. A much smaller but still attractive lake for recreation would be left at the bottom of the Tahoe Valley.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          It got caught in the spam filter (apologies). I go through it a few times a day to pull out real comments. So if something disappears, don’t despair. It will reappear.

      • sangell says:

        Well, I don’t live in California anymore though I did spend most of my life there. I would suggest draining Lake Tahoe first as this lake alone contains approximately 36 cubic miles of water which would supply even a drought stricken California for years but it would empty the lake. On the positive side current property owners with lake front property could be compensated by selling land on the enormous alpine valley the lake would create as it was drained and the hydroelectric power that could be generated from 36 cubic miles of water over a mile of above sea level would also earn a lot of money.

    • Randy says:

      Leave our great lakes alone and used desalinization plants which you folks out west should have been building years and years ago? I’ve spoken about this with many people in my area and they all seem to feel the same way as I do. Try and take our water and we’ll fight you.

    • Jerry Bear says:

      Shatner is totally unrealistic if he thinks drought stricken Washington will willingly part with their scarce water for California. Even less likely will Canada allow it to be obtained from British Columbia. There is however a simple and economical technology for obtaining unlimited amounts of fresh water from sea water. Usually, desalination schemes involved huge expensive facilities and lots of energy, but this one doesnt. It just requires access to deep water near shore which the California coast generally has. The technology is based on reverse osmosis, but not an active type. The minimal pressure for extracting fresh water from sea water is about the same as 700 feet deep in the ocean. For a variety of practical considerations, you would need to have the pressure of about 1000 feet, more if you wanted a high volume of water extraction. The idea is simply to place a concrete bunker at least 1000 feet deep in the ocean off shore with reverse osmosis filters installed. The fresh water generated would be pumped up to the surface then sent wherever it was needed. Irrigation water is being pumped up from more than that so it would not be unduly expensive once the desalinator was installed. There would of course be practical considerations like keeping the osmosis membranes from fouling and making sure the extra salty water that is the bi product of the process has unimpeded flow into the depths or a deep current but I think the technology would be quite manageable and could be made economical once it was fully developed. You would effectively have a well of unlimited capacity pumping up fresh water from the sea and need no additional power source other than the power to pump up the water and send it on. You could position these along the coast wherever needed and adjust their capacity to produce as much water as needed in a never ending stream from the sea. Properly implemented, I think this technology alone could solve all of California’s major water problems without infringing on the water supplies of other states. At the very least, it deserves to be looked into.

      Cheers, JerryBear ^,..,^

  9. Richard Guy says:

    The Level in the Great Lakes is dropping at an alarming rate. There is no turning back the water is not going to vcome back it is going going gone. The last reserve of water on earth in the Icecaps are melting away and running to waste and the remainder is being polluted. Global Warming is a fact of life and the resultant water disappearance is an ongoing equation which we fail to realize because we just dont know the that water is disappearing all around the world. Pollution is taking its toll of water sources and all water bodies are drying up.
    . The

  10. Vespa P200E says:

    I live in SF bay area in Cali.

    Well the lawns in my hood are as green as they can be. I have not watered my front lawn to be a “good” citizen not to mention the damn gopher I finally trapped but left the back yard lawn greener for my pups. Anyway wife is bugging me saying our front yard looks looks crappy so I turned on the sprinklers for front lawn starting last Sun. I’m all for people with lush front lawn getting tickets but my water provider EBMUD is not quite there yet.

    Did you know that it takes 1 gallon of water per each almond shipped mostly to Asia and the huge corporate almond tree farms dotting along the I5 corridor is literally sucking the groundwater dry to a point where lot of folks in central Cali are facing dry wells?

  11. night-train says:

    Many great civilizations have been lost due to losing their water sources. We can make the desert bloom, ……until we can’t.

  12. Morgan says:

    Lake Mead is in Southern Nevada right next door to Las Vegas, and it will be affected the most and California the least. As far as U.S. history is concerned there’s irony and a chuckle in there somewhere. Well Ma looks like you were wrong, money and power always win. Or is it money and power are always right? I forget.

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