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Las Vegas spends nearly $1 billion to accelerate its plunge into devastating drought followed by economic oblivion


Lake Mead
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(NaturalNews) The multi-year drought that is baking California and draining underground aquifers at alarming rates is not just limited to the Golden State. Neighboring Nevada has also been greatly affected by it, and the state has just spent almost $1 billion to further its economic demise.

As reported by The Associated Press, Nevada has spent more than $817 million over six years to drill a so-called "Third Straw" to suck water from a rapidly depleting Lake Mead, just to make sure that sprawling Las Vegas can continue to obtain drinking water from near the lake's bottom.

The AP further reported:

The pipeline, however, won't drain the largest Colorado River reservoir any faster. It's designed to ensure that Las Vegas can still get water if the lake surface drops below two existing supply intakes.

"You turn on the tap, you don't think about it," Noah Hoefs, a pipeline project manager for the Las Vegas-based Southern Nevada Water Authority, told AP. "These are the things being done in order to live the lifestyle we want in the places we want to live."

While this is just the latest example of the many ways people in the parched West are draining their remaining water during the 15-year drought period, it is also emblematic of massive denial: Most who live in the region have refused to accept the fact that the population, along with harmful federal and state regulations, have outstripped available resources.

Too many people, not enough water

The same is true especially in overpopulated California, home to more than 38 million residents and the bulk of the nation's produce production. There, state officials have asked homeowners to tear out water-thirsty laws and have asked farmers to cut back on their use of water as much as possible.

In New Mexico, meanwhile, a $550 million pipeline project is expected to carry water to several communities that are on the precipice of running out completely within a decade.

It's not as if the problem just arose. Las Vegas began water conservation efforts in 1999, reusing and replenishing supplies. Lake Mead water levels fell dramatically in 2002, leading local water officials to take up plans for the newly completed third straw.

"Unlike California and our other partners on the river, we are almost entirely reliant on Lake Mead," John Entsminger, water authority general manager, told AP. "We couldn't afford to wait."

The city draws some 90 percent of its drinking water from the massive lake located behind Hoover Dam, which was completed in 1936 at a cost of about 100 workers.

"The need for the new pipeline can be seen in the wide white mineral band marking rock canyon walls where lake water has receded and the sun-bleached docks at abandoned marinas, left high and dry," AP reported.

Lake Mead the next Aral Sea?

Since 1983, when water last topped the dam's spillways, the lake level has dropped some 20 stories and is now at 37 percent capacity.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas has grown in size from about 126,000 residents in 1971 to more than 2 million today. In addition, the city sees about 40 million tourists annually.

While officials don't expect Lake Mead to dry up in the near future, it is certainly trending that way. As NaturalNews reported last year, other major bodies of water have already run dry.

One of them is the now-dry Aral Sea, an Asian body once teeming with fish, wildlife and sailboats but which has been drained due to poor conservation efforts and too much irrigation.

Lake Mead, some experts believe - along with Lake Powell, which is upriver from Lake Mead - could be next.

Sources:

http://apnews.myway.com

http://www.naturalnews.com/047522_aral_sea_drought_lake_mead.html

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk
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