Lake Mead’s water levels fell to historic lows this week, bringing the country’s largest lake within 150 feet of “dead pool” — when the water source is so low that water cannot flow down river from the dam.
Lake Mead’s water level was 1,044.03 feet on Wednesday, the lowest since the lake was filled in the 1930s.
If the reservoir drops below 895 feet — a possibility that is still years away — Lake Mead will reach a dead pool, with massive ramifications for millions of people in Arizona, California, Nevada, and parts of Mexico.
“This is deadly serious stuff,” ” says Robert Glennon, an emeritus professor of water law and policy at the University of Arizona.
Drought conditions have exacerbated Lake Mead’s depletion over the last two decades, exacerbated by climate change and increased water demands across the southwestern United States. Though the reservoir is at risk of becoming a dead pool, Glennon believes it will take several years to reach that point.
Meanwhile, the US Bureau of Reclamation and water managers all through southwestern United States are working to manage the flow of water into the Colorado River and regulate water use among the region’s states.
These measures are intended to help replenish Lake Mead, which was created on the Colorado River on the Arizona-Nevada border when the Hoover Dam was built in the early 1930s, and also Lake Powell, another severely depleted reservoir created along the Utah-Arizona border.
“As the water level in our western reservoirs drops, electricity generation becomes a problem,” Glennon explained.
As a reservoir is depleted, there is less water flowing through turbines and less liquid pressure to make them spin, resulting in less electricity produced by the turbines, he added.