81°F
weather icon Clear

Lake’s level drops anew

As the western mega-drought worsens, the nation’s largest reservoir hit a new worrisome milestone recently.

Lake Mead now sits just 29 percent full, dropping below 30 percent for the first time since the reservoir was initially filled more than 80 years ago, according to the most recent weekly report released earlier this month by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“We have been planning for this and preparing for this potential for more than two decades,” said Bronson Mack, spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “We anticipate that Lake Mead’s water level is going to continue to decline as a result of drought and climate change conditions. But this further emphasizes the seriousness of this issue. And it does serve as a very stark reminder that we all need to conserve the water that we use outdoors.”

Lake Mead’s continued drop is not a surprise. Beyond the rising temperatures and dwindling water supply in the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation recently implemented a plan to hold back 480,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell that would normally be released downstream and to Lake Mead, a measure taken to ensure that Glen Canyon Dam can continue to generate electricity amid what the Department of Interior has said are the driest conditions in the American West in more than 1,200 years.

The lake’s levels have fallen steadily for years, and estimates from the Bureau of Reclamation show no sign of that trend stopping anytime soon. Lake Mead sits at an elevation of 1,045.4 feet. That’s more than 40 feet lower than the 1,087.1 feet elevation the lake was at just two years ago in June 2020. The latest two-year projection from the federal agency shows that the lake could drop as low as 1,020 feet within the next two years.

In December, water agencies in Nevada, California and Arizona joined the bureau in signing the so-called “500+ plan,” a new effort to buoy Lake Mead’s elevation by about 16 feet over the next two years.

Last month, the water dropped far enough to expose the first intake straw for the first time in the lake’s history, and the water authority moved to activate its newest low-lake-level pumping station that pulls water from near the bottom of the reservoir.

But Southern Nevada’s water supply shouldn’t be affected anytime soon even as the lake continues to shrink, as that low-level pumping station is able to send water to the valley even if the reservoir shrinks another 150 feet to its “dead pool,” the point at which Hoover Dam would be unable to release water downstream.

Southern Nevada has also become more adept at conserving water over the years. Since 1999, the authority has been paying residents who convert their lawns to desert landscaping, and more recently it made a successful push for a new law that requires the removal of nearly one-third of all grass in Southern Nevada by making it illegal to use Colorado River water to irrigate “nonfunctional turf” starting in 2027.

The valley consumed roughly 242,000 acre-feet of water last year, Mack said. That’s more than 90,000 acre-feet, or about 26 billion gallons, less than the Las Vegas Valley consumed in 2002.

“We are providing less water to more people today than we did 20 years ago,” Mack said. “That’s because of conservation.”

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com . Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

THE LATEST
It’s (un)official

“Every vote counts and every vote has not been counted.”

City council to mull recruitment firms

When departing and now former city manager Taylour Tedder was on his way out, he took some steps to try to smooth out the transition to a new city executive in the form of five recruitment firms vying for the call to be hired to conduct a nationwide search for his replacement.

Brown proud to represent BC in Nationals

For those who are into the rodeo scene, you may want to remember the name Aiden Brown in years to come.

Church seeks senior housing

Leaders of the Boulder City United Methodist Church have a project in the works that they feel will benefit many in the community but understand those who may have concerns.

Fancier/foster permit back on city council agenda

If you call in to a city council meeting for public comment twice in one meeting, you officially qualify as a gadfly. (noun: 1) a fly that bites livestock, especially a horsefly, warble fly, or botfly. 2) an annoying person, especially one who provokes others into action by criticism.) Fred Voltz, already quoted in these pages for comments on other issues, also addressed the issue of pet breeding, likening the practice to prostitution or the dealing of narcotics.

Liquor Board approves BC Company Store request

In the 1930s, the original Boulder City Company Store included a “club room.” The city was officially dry until the late 1960s, so booze would not have been officially served. Except it was.

Dollar Tree takes over 99 Cents

Chances are that many will be giving their two-cents worth regarding the news that 99 Cent Only Stores, including the one in Boulder City, have been thrown a lifeline by a former competitor — Dollar Tree.

Master plan to accommodate energy storage

The moves to develop much of the Eldorado Valley for solar energy uses that has brought Boulder City millions of dollars in lease revenue — enough to make it feasible for a city of just 15,000 souls to consider spending upward of $40 million on a new municipal pool complex — took another step forward on May 28 as the city council voted unanimously to amend the master plan and zoning map that would allow for the creation of a battery-based energy storage facility.