The US’s largest water reservoir, Lake Mead on the Hoover Dam, is in very, very dangerous form. How dangerous is it? New satellite tv for pc photographs from NASA present simply how a lot the reservoir’s footprint has shrunk over the previous twenty years — and the distinction between July 2000 and July 2022 is stark.

Water ranges at Lake Mead are at a historic low — the reservoir hasn’t been this empty since 1937 when it was being crammed for the primary time. It’s presently at simply 27 % capability. The final time it was near full capability was 1999, only one yr earlier than the picture on the left of the slider under was taken.

Satellite tv for pc photographs of Lake Mead taken on July 6, 2000 (left) and on July 3, 2022 (proper)
Picture: NASA Earth Observatory / Lauren Dauphin and Picture: NASA Earth Observatory / Lauren Dauphin

The water elevation on the Hoover Dam stood at a meager 1,041 ft on July 18th, 2022, in accordance with the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Lake Mead. That’s a scary quantity as a result of, as soon as it drops under 1,000 ft, it’ll have an effect on the dam’s means to function its hydropower generators. The dam usually gives energy to 1.3 million folks in Nevada, Arizona, and California.

That’s not the one bother at Lake Mead. Final yr, officers declared a water scarcity there — the primary time such a declaration had ever been made alongside the Colorado River system. Forty million folks rely on the system for water throughout the southwestern US and northwestern Mexico. On the time, water ranges at Lake Mead had dropped to 1,071.57 ft. The water elevation is already even decrease than that and is predicted to drop one other 20 ft by subsequent summer time.

Lengthy-term drought made worse by local weather change has sucked the reservoir dry. Within the chart under, NASA plots out what that’s appeared like over the previous 2022 years. Greater than 80 % of the Western US is presently “abnormally dry,” in accordance with the US Drought Monitor. Nicely over a 3rd of the area is dealing with “excessive” or “distinctive” drought.

Picture: NASA Earth Observatory / Lauren Dauphin

Vanishing water at Lake Mead has left behind what’s euphemistically referred to as a “bathtub ring.” You possibly can see it fairly properly within the photographs under that zoom in on one part of the reservoir. The pale fringes surrounding the water that is still are locations the place water left behind calcium carbonate and different minerals — exhibiting the place the excessive mark was.

Picture: NASA Earth Observatory / Lauren Dauphin

The receding water is uncovering the reservoir’s secrets and techniques — sparking treasure hunts and even homicide mysteries. A physique present in a barrel this yr is suspected to be the sufferer of a mob hit within the Eighties, The Washington Put up experiences. (Las Vegas is close by.) Vacationers have additionally began scouring the lake in the hunt for jewellery and different valuables, the Put up experiences. That’s provided that they’ll handle to get on the water — 5 of six boating ramps are closed and automobiles are reportedly getting caught within the mud alongside the lake’s shrinking shores.

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