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Lake Mead shrinking: Severe drought dries up water supply, Las Vegas in trouble

Is Lake Mead shrinking? Experts say that the severe drought still hitting California has been drying up Las Vegaswater supply, leaving the region in some real trouble this week if the heat wave continues. As the biggest reservoir in the U.S., Lake Mead in Nevada is over 12 miles long with an impressive 759 mile shoreline; with this water source vanishing, citizens in Las Vegas and the surrounding area could face an extreme shortage in the near future. NewsMax reports this Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, that a prolonged lack of rainfall is leading to water levels dwindling away in recent years.

Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam Image
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Lake Mead shrinking is a definite cause for concern, say experts. For the past 14 years, the body of water is said to have been diminishing due to a highly extended drought. The reservoir was formed in 1935 by the Hoover Dam. While a number of indications verify that water levels are slowly but surely dropping, a noticeable white line along the substitute lake’s fractional rock enclosure reveals how conspicuously the water has decreased in the past decade. The recent California drought is said to have only exacerbated this detrimental shrinking process.

"This was all underwater," Pat Mulroy, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, told CBS News referring to a white line along the rocks. "I mean boats were everywhere. There was a whole marina here."

Certain areas of the Colorado River — a large river that eventually feeds into Lake Mead — is also said to be drying up. Satellite photos of the waterway reveal that water levels are diminishing at a "slow but nonetheless alarming rate." Due to the continuing shrinkage, over 4 trillion gallons of water are believed to have vanished since back in 2000. In fact, small islands of rocky outcroppings are clearly seen to be protruding from the reservoir that were once completely submerged.

"It's a pretty critical point," Mulroy added on the drought. "The rate at which our weather patterns are changing is so dramatic that our ability to adapt to it is really crippled."

Lake Mead is estimated to provide life-giving water to over 20 million people in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as surrounding areas like Arizona and southern California.

According to the press release on Lake Mead shrinking and the trouble that Las Vegas residents in particular might suffer from in terms of a diminished water supply:

“If the reservoir continues to dry up at its current rate, the lake will lose another 20 feet in 2014, and might lead to automatic water supply cuts in Nevada and Arizona, which could severely impact Las Vegas, which gets 90 percent of its water from the Lake Mead. Within the next few years, at least one of Las Vegas' two reservoir pipes could be above water.”

Nevada is said to currently be working on creating a new tunnel within the massive reservoir that would allow for greater access to the lake’s resources. The construction project is said to cost over $816 million and be finished by 2015 in expectancy of the possible water loss.

"We're really scrambling to make sure that this intake is done in time before we lose our first intake," J.C. Davis, the project's spokesperson, told a local media news source. "Without Lake Mead, there would be no Las Vegas."