Las Vegas Going Dry? Largest Reservoir In America Reaches Record Low

Tyler Durden's picture

Las Vegas and its 2 million residents and 40 million tourists a year may have a problem. As we noted a month ago, America's largest reservoir Lake Mead reached a record low, nearing levels that would force the Interior Department to declare a "shortage," which will lead to significant cutbacks for Arizona and Nevada. Well it has got worse...

At 1072 Feet, Lake Mead has never been more empty...

Source: LakesOnline

Under the federal guidelines that govern reservoir operations, the Interior Department would declare a shortage if Lake Mead’s level is projected to be below 1,075 feet as of the start of the following year. In its most recent projections, the Bureau of Reclamation calculated the odds of a shortage at 10 percent in 2017, while a higher likelihood – 59 percent – at the start of 2018.

But those estimates will likely change when the bureau releases a new study in August. Rose Davis, a public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation, said if that study indicates the lake’s level is going to be below the threshold as of Dec. 31, a shortage would be declared for 2017.

That would lead to significant cutbacks for Arizona and Nevada. California, which holds the most privileged rights to water from the Colorado River, would not face reductions until the reservoir hits a lower trigger point.



And now, to put this rapid decline in context,  NASA Earth Observatory published the two space images...

As NASA explains, they’re from a pair of Landsat satellites and show the lake near its highest and lowest points over the past 32 years. The Landsat 5 satellite acquired the top image on May 15, 1984. The lake last approached full capacity in the summer of 1983. Landsat 8 acquired the second image – below – on May 23, 2016.


As one water research scientist warned, "this problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds."

As population growth and heavy demand for water collide with hotter temperatures and reduced snowpack in the future, there will be an even greater mismatch between supply and demand, said Kelly Sanders, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in water and energy issues.


“The question becomes how to resolve this mismatch across states that all depend on the river to support their economic growth,” Sanders said. She expects incentives and markets to help ease some of the strains on water supplies, “but it is going to be tricky to make the math work in the long term.”

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froze25's picture

Who knew the Brits leaving the EU would make this happen?

0b1knob's picture

Lake Powell reports:

Water levels at Lake Powell have risen sharply the last month.   Snow pack is 158% of average.   Dams upstream of Powell are at 89% of capacity.   As more snow melts and the reservoirs fill more water will be released downstream.  Just one near normal year and things are filling up well.


stacking12321's picture

this is an outrage that the federal government would allow the water level at lake mead to get so low.

solution: a fair and equitable water use tax on the rest of the country would allow water to be trucked in so that everyone has water to drink.

water, like food, housing, education, and a cell phone, are basic human rights.

OrangeJews's picture
OrangeJews (not verified) stacking12321 Jun 17, 2016 2:45 PM

Supposed to be 113 Monday & Tuesday... That's good for water, right?

two hoots's picture


Even Flint will be able to bottle and sell their water to Las Vegas.  

wanderer9641's picture

Wrong - Having water trucked to you is not a basic human right - you get in your vehicle and move to where the water is - that is your right 

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

I'll do my part and save my piss in a 40-gal can.  Where do I mail it?

stacking12321's picture

and what if you are mobility-disabled? have you no compassion for others?

MalteseFalcon's picture

Can we just elect Trump and maybe, just maybe, exit this stupid fucking matrix for 8 years?

Pinch's picture

Can we just elect Trump and maybe, just maybe, exit this stupid fucking matrix for 8 years?

So Trump will overcome global warming? LOL! LOL!

That's why I come here, it's all comedy gold!

Lore's picture

Seriously, that's the part that pisses me off -- that so many sheeple still parrot the "global warming" narrative.  Mainstream political and science whores do it constantly.  It's like fingernails on an old-fashioned chalkboard. 

Setting aside the strategically-ambiguous reference to "climate change" (aka "global warming" in the modern bastardized vernacular, a ploy for greater CONTROL starting with a tax grab for your sins of emission), it couldn't hurt for a ZHer to bring up the real issue of transition from El Nino to La Nina:

If strong La Niña forms, here's how it will affect the U.S. (Weather Network, 23-May)

Cooler and drier?!  Can somebody please explain why real estate is bubbling AGAIN in these areas?  Can credit substitute for water? 

MalteseFalcon's picture

Trump won't overcome global warming, because there's no such thing.

Payne's picture

There is no Global Warming except that caused by the morons who keep talking about pretend science.


Fukushima Sam's picture

Sure, but if it's a constant game of two steps forward and three steps back then within the next decade the real crisis could happen.

balanced's picture

So when will finance companies realize that, without water, those propeties will most likely be unlivable/worthless in less than 30 years? Of course that's rhetorical. Companies will be offering 30-year mortgages on those properties long after Vegas becomes a ghost town to due to lack of ability to support basic sanitation.

slyder wood's picture

Let's keep it local.That the desert Southwest has experienced 50 year droughts before is a better argument than mere recital of the climate denial mantra. The official word is that we've been in drought for ~15, my observation is its more like 20. Hopefully, only 30 to go.

Pinch's picture

Water levels at Lake Powell have risen sharply the last month

Lake Powell is also on a sinking trajectory

Edit: people are downvoting me because I posted a FACT in a FACT-FREE zone! Love this place, full of idiots!

MalteseFalcon's picture

People are down voting you, because you're a fool.

Most of the western United states is a desert.

It is able to sustain its current population due to the large water infrastructure built over 70 years ago.

Now that infrastructure is approaching its limit.

Without an adjustment to the water infrastructure, population growth in the American west is over.

If the advanced level of discussion at ZH is triggering you, snowflake, seek a safe space, like HuffPo.

beercandad's picture

Lake Powell is 86.22 feet below Full Pool (Elevation 3,700)

By content, Lake Powell is 53.92% of Full Pool (24,322,000 af)

The peak inflows will slow and stop any day . You would have to empty Lake Powell to fill Lake mead --

Expat's picture

Snow pack is based on average yearly snow pack.  158% is not unusual for this time of year and is below some years.

Water levels have risen from extremely low levels but are still below historic numbers from past twenty years.

One normal year will not fill up Lake Powell.

but, hey, why let facts and reality get in the way of belief.

Pinch's picture

Lake Shasta is full.

Only because of El Nino rains. For the next 20 years, those rains won't be there, so enjoy it while you can.

Midas's picture

As I said last time, this water shortage most likely will not be helped by importing a couple million mexicans into the southwest.

Implied Violins's picture

It will if they are wetbacks.

DocBerg's picture

It's really all Bush's Fault!

Canadian Renegade's picture

This is Trumps fault.

froze25's picture

Absolutely he should of ran 4 years ago.

Amalgamated Tang's picture

It's Trump's Fault: He Should Have Run 4 Years Ago

That, my friend, is a fabulous line.

If the Trump people are smart (and thus, read ZH), they will plaster that line everywhere.


However, since he was in the primaries 4 years ago, so kinda did run, allow me to make an alteration:

It's Trump's Fault: He Should Have Won 4 Years Ago.

krispkritter's picture

Build a resort city in the desert, what's the worst that could happen?

Reminds me of that classic Kinison skit: 



shovelhead's picture

Sam died in the desert.

But it was right by the Colorado River.

Automatic Choke's picture

Surprise, surprise.    Denver has been sucking the upper river dry.


Zero-Hegemon's picture

Now that everyone's got a grow operation in their backyard

AdolphLustig's picture
AdolphLustig (not verified) Zero-Hegemon Jun 17, 2016 2:13 PM

I blame coors.

And where is all the water going?

I was in Denver last year, rained like hell, and yet a day or two after the floods the overfilled lakes were almost dry.

any_mouse's picture

"rained like hell' tends to run off and not soak down to the water table. Rain exceeding soak rate is wasted and causes erosion. Gentle soaking rains are preferable.


I learned this on the ground, err, flood plain, in New Jersey in the mid 80's. My property was flooded quite often with two or three hurricaines and some severe storms from the Ohio Valley. Yet, Round Valley and Spruce Run resevoirs were at lows throughout the period. Outside of the floods, my property was very dry. Having an above ground basement was a plus.

kbohip's picture

Good!  Maybe for once we in Colorado will actually have some of Colorado's water and not watch golf courses in the desert green up while our yards go dry.

alexcojones's picture

When TRUMP is president, he will pump water from Canada, Texas and make that Wall - uh, Moat, with Mexico

Zero-Hegemon's picture

Build a wall around Lake Mead, that will keep the dryness out

Occams_Chainsaw's picture

If only Obooger would use his pen and paper to make droughts illegal.

Zero-Hegemon's picture

I think it's about time for Nevada to check it's wet privilege

Max Cynical's picture

Just deporting the illegals in the Las Vegas Valley will solve their water problem.

Zero-Hegemon's picture

The Vegas line for Lake Mead in 2017 is shaping up to be a longshot

A Nanny Moose's picture

Put government in charge of the desert, and in 5 years there will be a shortage of sand. -Uncle Milton

Dg4884's picture

Stinks for them.  Move to Florida.