Published: June 3, 2015

    Dangerously Low: Lake Mead at Forty Percent of Capacity

    As California enters its fourth year of severe drought, it’s important to remember the state isn’t the only area suffering. The Colorado River Basin has been in drought conditions for the last fourteen years, and the strain is beginning to show at Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States.

    Lake Mead supplies water to multiple communities, including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, and San Diego. Dependent on rain and snowfall, the lake has dropped steadily over the last four years, recently reaching a new record low with a water level of 1081.10 feet. This leaves the lake 148 feet below capacity. Should water levels fall much further, the Bureau of Reclamation will start rationing water deliveries to Arizona, Nevada, and parts of California.

    Viewing the broad white “bathtub ring” running around the rim of the reservoir is sobering. It’s a stark reminder that the Southwest is in the grip of a serious water shortage. To recover from the current drought, California will need enough water to fill 1 ½ Lake Meads.

    Some experts believe the state will run out of water as early as 2016. What happens if they’re right? The state’s economy will suffer significantly. Some go so far as to suggest we’ll see a mass migration out of the state to other, water-rich areas of the country. Californians may need to face the prospect they’re now living in a desert, and plan their water consumption accordingly.

    Water, a commodity we’ve been lucky enough to take for granted, has suddenly become a dwindling resource, and one we all need to conserve. For some, that means replacing a water-ravenous grass lawn with drought-resistant plants. For others, it means replacing a salt-based water softener with a water-conserving water softener alternative with salt free technology. However you choose to conserve water, think of Lake Mead when you do. And hope that this year’s projected El Nino brings some much-needed rain and heavy mountain snowfall.