Lake Mead Water Levels Drop To Record Lows And Raise Concern Over Water Shortage

Lake Mead water levels are at a new record low, thanks to an expansive drought in the southwestern United States. White rings can be seen all around the lake where water levels once were, alarming people who depend upon the lake.

Lake Mead, located along the Colorado River close to Las Vegas, Nevada, is the largest reservoir in the U.S. It serves as an entire valley's primary source of drinking water for close to 40 million people.

The last time that water levels at Lake Mead were this low happened in 1937 when the reservoir was first filled, according to Climate Progress. The water levels are currently at around 40 percent capacity.

The Associated Press reports that the projected lake water level at 1,080 feet above sea level will be beat two other low records. One record in November, 2010, measured at 1,082 feet and beat out another record in April 1956 at 1,083 feet.

Jayne Harkins expressed the Colorado River Commission's concern, saying, "We're very concerned about the continued drought of course; we're in the fourteenth year of drought."

Lake Mead low water levels leave white rings.
Lake Mead water levels continue to drop, leaving white rings around the lake.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regional chief Terry Fulp said in a statement, "We continue to closely monitor the projections of declining lake levels and are working with stakeholders throughout the Lower Basin to keep as much water in Lake Mead as we can through various storage and conservation efforts."

Despite the low records, Fulp declared that water will still be delivered normally to people throughout Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles for at least another year without a key shortage declaration.

Rose Davis, a bureau spokesperson in Boulder City, Nevada, said that Lake Mead water levels are expected to rise to about 1,083 feet by the beginning of next year. She stated that the current low water levels at Lake Mead were not surprising.

"We projected this was coming," Davis said. "We are basically where we expected to be, given the dry winters in 2012 and 2013."

Despite rain and flash flooding from Mount Charleston, not enough water will supply Lake Mead to replenish it, according to News 3.

Water officials claim that an acre-foot of water will typically supply a Nevada household for about a year. Lake Mead has about 10.2 million acre-feet of water.

Lake Mead is managed along with Lake Powell, another reservoir near the Utah and Arizona state line. Davis claims that Lake Powell is at 52 percent capacity and holds around 12.7 million acre-feet of water.

Lake Mead water levels must drop below a 1,075 foot mark before officials will declare a water shortage declaration.

[Image via AP/Julie Jacobson]