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Drought reveals human remains in barrel at Lake Mead

A barrel containing human remains was discovered in Nevada’s Lake Mead over the weekend as a historic drought grips the West.

Las Vegas Metro Police fear they may find more bodies, officials told a local news outlet.

The decline in the waters of Lake Mead, the largest man-made reservoir in the country, has reached historic lows. The levels are so shallow that a barrel containing skeletal remains was found submerged in mud on Sunday, KLAS-TV in Las Vegas reports.

Based on personal items found in the barrel, police believe it has been at the bottom of the lake since the 1980s.

Las Vegas Metro Police Lt. Ray Spencer told the news station the person was likely killed four decades ago and was found around 3 p.m. Sunday by boaters. He gave no further details about who the person was or how the remains ended up in a barrel at the bottom of Lake Mead.

“It’s going to be a lot of work,” Spencer said as she tried to identify the person. “I would say there is a very good chance that the water level will drop for us to find more human remains.”

The lake – a lifeline for 25 million people and millions of acres of farmland in California, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico – has tipped into crisis amid record temperatures and a melting mantle weaker snow. The lake’s “bathtub ring,” formed by mineral deposits, marks the rocky desert slopes more than 150 feet above the receding shore.

“I think everyone can relate that there are probably more bodies that have been dumped in Lake Mead, it’s just a matter of, are we able to recover them?” said Spencer.

A photo of the skeleton in a partially exposed barrel was shared with the news station. A Clark County Coroner’s Office official said the department could not comment on the inquest. Police said they would contact outside experts, including at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to help identify the remains.

Last month, Lake Mead water levels dropped so low that an original water valve not seen since 1971 was exposed. The Southern Nevada Water Authority told CNN the valve could no longer draw water due to low water levels.

“The Colorado River Basin is experiencing the worst drought in recorded history,” the water agency said in a statement posted on its website. “Since 2000, snowfall and runoff in the basin has been well below normal. These conditions resulted in significant water level declines in major reservoirs in the system, including Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

Worsening mega-drought forces water districts to restrict use. In California, about 6 million people will have to reduce their water consumption by 35%. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California says this will equate to about 80 gallons per day per person.

“The rough figure we are looking at is to come up with a consumption of around 80 gallons per person per day,” said Adel Hagekhalil, district general manager. “We try to preserve everything we can.”

Los Angeles Times

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