This is it, warns one water advocate, "it really does (make critical) the fact that we have to start changing." Lake Mead water levels have sunk to their lowest levels on record (below the levels when the dam was built) at 1075 feet. This is a major problem, as USA Today reports, since Las Vegas water authority's current "straws" glean water from 1,050 feet and 1,000 feet - leaving the first straw just 25 feet away from pulling in air. With the drought only set to get worse as the summer begins, the water wars are just beginning as Lower-basin states are still taking more than the river system can sustain.
Bad and getting worse...
Lake Mead sunk to a record low Tuesday night, falling below the point that would trigger a water-supply shortage if the reservoir doesn't recover soon.
...in the long run, as a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman said, "We still need a lot more water."
The reservoir stores water for parts of Arizona, Southern California, southern Nevada and northern Mexico — all of which have endured a 15-year drought that continues.
But Tuesday's record low signals that Colorado River water users consume more than the river provides, said water-policy manager Drew Beckwith of the Western Resource Advocates, a nonprofit environmental law and policy organization.
"This is the check-engine light," Beckwith said. "It really does (make critical) the fact that we have to start changing."
For Las Vegas, the record reinforces the need for a nearly $1.5 billion project to tap deeper into Lake Mead. The Southern Nevada Water Authority soon will complete a 3-mile tunnel that will suck water from an 860-foot elevation level. The plan also includes a pumping station.
The water authority's current "straws" glean water from 1,050 feet and 1,000 feet. Lake Mead hovers around 1,075 feet Wednesday — leaving the first straw just 25 feet away from pulling in air.
Leaders launched the third intake project about 10 years ago, seeking to reach better-quality water at deeper depths. Water closer to the surface is warmer and requires more treatment to bring it to drinking quality, said Bronson Mack, a spokesman for the water authority.
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Drought or no drought, the Colorado River is over allocated, Beckwith said.
Lower-basin states take more than the river system can sustain.