(Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Water levels at Lake Mead, the very important reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam, reached a fresh record low this week as the Western U.S. continues to suffer from a serious drought, according to news reports.
On Wednesday (June 9), the reservoir’s levels dropped to 1,071. 56 ft (326 meters) above sea level — marginally lower compared to the previous record low of 1,074.6 feet (327 meters) put in 2016, based on Reuters. Overall, the reservoir has fallen 140 ft (43 m) in the past 21 years, Reuters reported.
Engineers made Lake Mead in the 1930s by building the Hoover Dam from the Colorado River in the Arizona-Nevada border. It is the biggest reservoir in the United States, containing some 9 billion gallons (34 trillion liters) of water, which has allocated to about 25 million people living in the Southwest, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas, Reuters reported.
The Southwestern U.S. was at a nearly continuous drought for the past two decades, together with rain and snowfall too low to allow the area to fully recover from the drought, according to CNN.
“Climate change is clearly playing a role,” from the protracted drought, Brandon Miller, a meteorologist for CNN, told the news outlet. “The warmer temperatures are driving that vicious cycle [of drought] and making it harder for normal or even above-average rainfall years to make a dent,” Miller stated. “When one or two below-average rainfall/snowfall years occur, as we have just seen, the results are disastrous.”
The reduced levels in Lake Mead will likely require states that depend on the reservoir to implement water-saving measures. In August, U.S. officials will decide whether to declare that a”Level 1 Shortage Condition” for Lake Mead for 2022, which could activate cuts in water supply for the area, CNN reported.
For instance, Arizona may have its water supply cut by 320,000 acre-feet, which would be about a year’s supply for 1 million people, according to Retuers.
“While we may have less water coming to Arizona from the Colorado River in 2022, Arizona’s water managers and suppliers have been taking measures to prepare and will continue to work to ensure the river remains stable for generations to come,” Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, told CNN.
Originally printed on Live Science.