Lake Mead is around 143 feet below ‘full,’ a deficit roughly the height of the Statue of Liberty
The lake has fallen around 143 feet below its 2000 level, when it was last considered full. What’s left is a “bathtub ring” of white minerals as tall as Lady Liberty along the lake’s steep shoreline.
About a century ago, representatives from seven U.S. states — Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico — struck a deal to divvy up the Colorado River. Hydrologists warned that officials were promising more water than the river could give, according to Fleck. But in an era driven by power and politics, their warnings were largely ignored and plans moved forward.
25,000,000 people rely on Lake Mead water
That’s more than the population of Florida.
Snaking its way through the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California, the flows of the Colorado River are dwindling due to climate change-driven heat and drought.
Among the hardest hit in the first round of water cuts will be agricultural communities, particularly those in central Arizona. With less water, farmers say they will be forced to fallow land.
Native American communities are also impacted, Fleck said: “A number of tribal communities across the Colorado River Basin have been promised some water that they don’t have yet.”
The last time Lake Mead was considered full was 2000
Twenty one years ago Lake Mead peaked at an elevation of 1,214 feet. The highest recorded level was in 1983 when it was 1,225 feet above sea level.
Experts say it may never be full again. Lake Mead is now at 36 percent capacity — a number that will continue to fall as the reservoir’s rapid decline continues to outpace projections from just a few months earlier. Water levels are projected to drop another 20 feet by 2022.
“This [rapid decline] scares me,” said Fleck. “It’s dropping so fast that it may be overreaching our ability to cope with the problems. I did not anticipate the bottom to drop…