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Country’s largest reservoir hits lowest level since 1930s amid worsening drought


Amid an intensifying drought, Nevada’s Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir by volume, hit its lowest level since the 1930s on Wednesday night.

Why is this important: The lowest record is due to a combination of years of worsening punitive drought in the southwest, as well as challenges in managing water resources for a burgeoning population.

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  • The record reading, along with subsequent drops expected in the lake, will almost certainly trigger a federal declaration of “water scarcity” later this summer, which would trigger cuts in water allocations to several states.

Between the lines: Lake Mead, which lies along the Nevada-Arizona border, is part of the vast Colorado River basin that provides water for agriculture and human consumption to seven states, and also generates electricity at the massive Hoover Dam.

  • The water supply cuts, which will be determined in August, are said to affect farmers in the area, residents of sprawling cities such as Las Vegas and others.

  • Already, the Hoover Dam is operating below its maximum capacity, and it could see a further reduction in power generation over the summer.

Details: Years of exceptionally dry conditions along with a growing population and decisions about water resources have contributed to this situation.

  • On Thursday morning, the Bureau of Reclamation showed that hourly Lake Mead water levels fell to 1,071.48 feet on Thursday and remained below the previous record set on July 1, 2016.

  • A spokesperson for the Home Office agency said the record high was first reached around 11 p.m. Wednesday, when the reading fell to 1,071.56 feet above sea level Such low water levels have not been observed since the reservoir was first filled in 1937.

  • Currently, the South West is experiencing a worsening drought which is the largest and most serious episode of this century. In Arizona, for example, 86.5% of the state is currently classified as experiencing “extreme” to “exceptional” drought – the two worst categories in the US Drought Monitor.

To note : Historical climate information gleaned from tree rings and other sources show that the region is currently in a long-term “mega-drought” which is the second worst such event in at least 1,200 years.

Threat level: The ongoing drought is expected to continue to intensify and spread in the west and southwest throughout the summer, straining energy resources and preparing the region for a severe fire season. forest.

  • Arizona has already seen big fires, and California firefighters expect big fires to start at least two months earlier than in an average season.

  • A water scarcity declaration will be made if the Bureau of Reclamation’s August projections show the lake level to remain below 1,075 feet in early 2022, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Go further: The new climatic peril of the South West

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