Nevada’s Lake Mead, a provider of water for so many western states, is causing panic as it reaches its lowest levels in the past 85 years. For decades it has captured trillions of gallons of water, allowed for the growth of countless acres of farmland, and provided 25 million people with water. However, so many years in a drought has changed its once plentiful nature. The lake has been steadily losing height, leading to cuts in the amount of water delivered to its patrons, and if it drops even 28 more feet, the water supply to California will begin to decrease as well in 2023.
Climate change has offered many blatant signs such as the vicious fires and unbelievably high temperatures, but the rapidly decreasing water levels is perhaps one of its most dire consequences. The most affected are residents of Nevada and Arizona, particularly those near the border. They rely on Lake Mead for its attraction of tourists, who travel far and wide to participate in fishing and recreation that the lake was once so famous for. One specific type of fish, the striped bass, is no where to be found, most likely due to an excess of calcium deposits that are restricting the lakes flow. Eric Richins, a regular fisherman at the lake, voices his troubles, “The places where I was catching fish last spring and summer just don’t have fish anymore. As the water drops, the habitat for fish changes because some of their homes are just no longer available.”
The drought’s effect on Lake Mead will change the way water is distributed for the next couple of years if not more. The Bureau of Reclamation, in charge of projections and procedure, has estimated that snowfall in the Rockies and Upper Basin will reverse the drought. They also project that by the September of 2022, the river will carry 8.3 million acre-feet of water to a reservoir on the border between Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell, which then brings water to Lake Mead. Many experts, however, believe that the bureau’s estimates are too generous. Kathryn Sorenson, former director of water services in Phoenix, Arizona, states, “The Colorado River is over-allocated. We really can’t rely on snowpack in the Rockies to refill our reservoirs and mitigate the over-allocation of the river.”