A key reservoir on the Colorado River has fallen to an all-time low in the latest demonstration of drought control in the region.
Lake Mead’s surface elevation along the Nevada-Arizona border dropped to 1,071.56 feet at 11 p.m. Wednesday night. This level was last reached in July 2016 and is 18.5 feet lower than a year ago, according to the United States Office of Reclamation, it is the lowest level since Lake Mead was filled in the 1930s.
“We expect the reservoir to continue to decline through November, then it should start to recover,” said US Office of Recovery spokeswoman Patti Aaron.
The water level affects the recreation industry in what is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the country and the efficiency of hydroelectric power generation at Hoover Dam.
It will not be used to determine next year’s water deliveries to Arizona, California and Nevada until August, when the Office of Recovery issues an official projection. The agency has already said that it is expected to declare the first shortage declaration leading to cuts in Arizona and Nevada.
“People are certainly worried… you look at the deposit and it’s worrying,” Aaron said. Lake Mead levels flow throughout the year based on weather patterns and the amount of water consumed or evaporated; Authorities project the lake to drop to 1,064 feet before recovering in November, when agriculture needs to slow, Aaron said.
States, water districts, and tribes have propped up Lake Mead over the years through various agreements to prevent it from falling to a point where it cannot deliver water downstream. The Colorado River supplies 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, as well as a $ 5 billion a year agricultural industry.