Why You Need to Know About Lake Mead’s Decreasing Water Level

Lake Mead is one of the two major storage reservoirs on the Colorado River system and the largest water reservoir in the United States. Along with Lake Powell and the Colorado river system, the lake provides drinking water to nearly 40 million people in the western United States and produces millions of megawatt hours of energy. Formed by the Hoover Dam, the lake has reached a historic low point this year since it began filling in 1935.

Three of the major contributing factors for its decline are:

  • the drought
  • the high demand of water supplies
  • and climate change.

Most people are aware that California has faced a severe drought over the last five years, however, the reality is that drought conditions have plagued the western region of the United States for the last 16 years causing a steady decline in reservoir levels over time. Increasing urbanization in the West coupled with the deficit of the available supplies is making this crisis worse. Additionally, climate change is causing an increase of temperature and a shrinkage of the water supply through evaporation. 

Federal officials say that if the level falls enough by 2017, supply cuts will be made to Arizona and Nevada. The Central Arizona Project will lose about 320,000 acre feet, which will threaten the livelihood of farmers dependent on the project. Nevada would face a cut of 13,000 acre feet, a relatively modest amount since the state has the smallest allocation from the river. California — the senior water rights holder — would get none. State officials are working out an interstate deal to keep the reservoir level higher, in order to avoid a voluntary reduction of almost 8% of its 4.4 million acre feet annual allocation from the river. An acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, enough water to serve one to two average households.

In an effort to ensure a long-term sustainability of the region, multiple strategies that address our needs are imperative to adapt to the changing climate. These include the use of water conservation technologies — such as Falcon’s high performance water conservation technologies — expanding the use of recycling water, better pricing, rebates  and the development of smart solutions that can address the needs of all species and habitats.