Originally published July 21 2015
Lake Mead reaches another record low as water apocalypse nears for Las Vegas, a city living in denial
by Daniel Barker
(NaturalNews) The severe droughts affecting the western United States are approaching apocalyptic proportions as the water level of Lake Mead - America's largest capacity reservoir - has reached the lowest point in its history.
Lake Mead, which was formed when the Hoover Dam was built, supplies water to around 40 million people and is also a crucial agricultural resource in the region. Humans, livestock and crops in Arizona, California, Nevada and even northern Mexico depend on water from Lake Mead (and the Colorado River which feeds it) for power, drinking water and irrigation.
Major metropolitan areas including Las Vegas and Phoenix also rely heavily on Lake Mead water.
The water levels have just dropped (as of this writing on April 30, 2015) below 1,080 feet - that's lower than last year's record low level of 1080.19 feet.
What makes this even scarier is the fact that last year's record low occurred in August - this year the record has been broken before the end of April and predictions are that the levels will continue to drop another seven feet by the end of June.
Lake Mead is fed by the Colorado River, which is in the midst of a relentless "super-drought" that has lasted 14 years so far, and which is expected to worsen over the coming years.
The Colorado River carries water from melted snow that flows into it from the "upper basin states" which include Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. Lake Mead gets 96 percent of its water from this snow melt, which dropped below 47 percent of normal in 2013.
This decrease in snowpack runoff has in turn caused Lake Mead and other reservoirs along the Colorado River to drop to levels as low as 40 percent of capacity since the drought began.
Levels nearing "critical point"The lake levels are nearing the critical point when federal officials will begin rationing water deliveries to Arizona, Nevada and some areas in California.
Recent studies have indicated that the drought is unlikely to end any time soon. In fact, mean annual runoff is expected to drop another 8.5 percent by the middle of the century.
The building boom that greatly expanded the size and population of urban areas throughout the Colorado basin region - including Las Vegas, Phoenix and other cities - was largely due to the record high levels of Lake Mead during the last half of the 20th century.
No one expected the water levels to drop so far and so fast. Now the entire region faces a very uncertain future as temperatures are expected to continue rising and water resources continue to dwindle.
The Las Vegas area is particularly threatened. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports:
"Smack in the middle is the Las Vegas Valley, which draws roughly 90 percent of its water from the river using two intake pipes at Lake Mead. A new deep-water intake is expected to go online by the end of summer, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority is rushing to design and build an associated pumping station to keep water flowing to the community even if the reservoir shrinks another 185 feet to 'dead pool,' the level at which that Hoover Dam can no longer release water.
Such a scenario was once unthinkable, but now water managers are spending a great deal of money preparing for it. The combined cost of the water authority's new intake pipe and pump station will likely top $1.4 billion."
As global temperatures continue rising, and more demands are placed on dwindling reservoirs, water availability is likely to become one of the crucial issues facing populations across the globe.
Conserving water at homeWe all need to do our part to help conserve water - here are 10 facts about the amount of water we waste, as compiled by Jon Clift and Amanda Cuthbert, authors of Water: Use Less - Save More:
• Americans now use 127 percent more water than we did in 1950.
• About 95 percent of the water entering our homes goes down the drain.
• Running the tap while brushing your teeth can waste 4 gallons of water.
• Older toilets can use 3 gallons of clean water with every flush, while new toilets use as little as 1 gallon.
• Leaky faucets that drip at the rate of one drop per second can waste up to 2,700 gallons of water each year.
• A garden hose or sprinkler can use almost as much water in an hour as an average family of four uses in one day.
• A water-efficient dishwasher will use as little a 4 gallons per wash cycle, whereas some older models use up to 13 gallons per cycle.
• Some experts estimate that more than 50 percent of landscape water use goes to waste due to evaporation or runoff caused by over-watering.
• Many people in the world exist on 3 gallons of water per day or less. We can use that amount in one flush of the toilet.
• Over a quarter of all the clean, drinkable water you use in your home is used to flush the toilets.
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