Home U.S. Lake Mead water valve is exposed for the first time amid historic drought

Lake Mead water valve is exposed for the first time amid historic drought

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The plunging water level of the lake exposed one of the original intake valves of the reservoir for the first time, officials say.

Valves have been in use since 1971, but can no longer pump water, according to the Nevada Southern Water Authority, which manages the water resources of 2.2 million people in southern Nevada, including Las Vegas.

Extreme droughts have already occurred this year across the west, and the summer heat has not yet arrived. Drought monitors in the United States reported Thursday that the drought situation in the southwest had worsened over the past week. Extreme and exceptional droughts, the two worst designations, have expanded to New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. These are all states that are part of the Colorado River basin.

Droughts in New Mexico have been steadily intensifying since the beginning of the year, with extreme or exceptional droughts accounting for 68% of the state.


Further west, Southern California water authorities are demanding that residents and businesses limit outdoor watering to one day a week after a disappointing winter with little rain or snow. It is the first time they have implemented such strict rules.

“This is a crisis. It’s unprecedented,” said Adel Hagekaril, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California. “I’ve never done this before, and I’ve never seen this situation before. Sufficient water to meet the normal needs of the 6 million people living in the subordinate areas of the state water project. there is not.”

A photo taken on Monday at Lake Mead shows that the agency’s three intake valves are tall and dry above the waterline.

“When the lake reaches 1060 (1 foot above sea level), that’s when you can see the top of the number one intake,” said Bronson Mack, official outreach officer for the Southern Nevada Waterworks Authority. rice field.

Lake Mead reached 1,060 feet above sea level on April 4, and stood at 1055 feet as of Wednesday, he said.

As a result, the Water Department has begun operating a new low lake pumping station for the first time. This is a valve deeper at the bottom of Lake Mead. Construction began in 2015 and completed in 2020, the station will be able to supply water at much lower levels of the lake and will be built to protect the water resources of the region in light of the worsening drought. I did.

“There was no impact on the ability of the water supply operation,” Mack said. “Customers were unaware of anything. It was a seamless transition.”

The water flowing through the Colorado River fills Lake Mead and Lake Powell (another important reservoir in the west), and the river system supports more than 40 million people in seven western states and Mexico. Both reservoirs provide drinking water and irrigation to many communities throughout the region, including rural farms, ranches and local communities.

The federal government declared water shortages on the Colorado River for the first time last summer. This shortage caused a compulsory reduction in water consumption in the southwestern states that began in January.
And in March, Lake Powell fell below a critical threshold that threatened Glen Canyon Dam’s power generation capacity.

Scientists reported on Monday that the West had been hit by the worst drought for centuries. According to a survey released in February, the period 2000-2021 was the driest in 1200 years in the region.

Studies show that the artificial climate crisis has exacerbated western megadroughts by 72%.

Justin Mankin, an assistant professor of geography at Dartmouth College and co-leader of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Drought Task Force, told CNN in March.

This story has been updated with additional information.

Rachel Ramirez and Monica Garrett of CNN contributed to this report.


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