In the photo above you see Lake Mead’s “bathtub ring,” so-called because of a severe loss of water due to draught and overuse. This photo is from an earlier year, the ring is wider and more pronounced now in 2015.
For the lake, created by the construction of Hoover Dam, there’s a prolonged life and death struggle going on. For the citizens who depend on the water from this reservoir, the effects are more immediate. California just began a water conservancy program and Nevada’s program is in place for years.
“America’s Largest Man Made Lake”
After the dam was finished, at its highest level, Lake Mead contained 28 million acre feet of water. It was so deep, a small town, St. Thomas, evacuated because the lake inundated the entire town. It also contains the remains of several aircraft in its depths. It’s known as America’s largest man-made lake, but its waters receded so much in recent years that the ruins of St. Thomas are now rising like ghosts from a grave.
The new Michael O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which now bypasses the Hoover Dam route from Arizona into Nevada is another modern miracle of engineering and construction. But the view from the bridge vividly shows the ravages of the loss of water at the dam itself.
Although the reality of drought began to be evident as early as 1983, not all the devastation of the lake level is due to drought conditions. Overbuilding and over-population in Las Vegas contributes greatly to the lowered water level. During the real estate boom of the 1990s and early 2000s, it seemed every household from the east coast and midwest moved to the valley. Construction went on at a feverish pace to accommodate the new arrivals. The resulting drain on the reservoir (Lake Mead) which supplies the water for Las Vegas and surrounding areas began to take its toll. Combined with the lack of precipitation in the areas needed to fill the lake, there’s a dull “death knell” sounding in the hearts of those who were proud of the wonder of Hoover Dam and the beauty of Lake Mead.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported over a year ago, that the state of California would begin drawing its “banked” waters from Lake Mead soon, taking it down approximately another two feet. These are waters California had every right to draw upon, but the lake could sorely afford the loss. This affects the entire western area of the nation, not just Nevada and Cali fornia.
On April 1, 2015, the Governor of California imposed a mandatory water conservancy program. This will greatly affect not just Californians, but also all of us who enjoy the fruits, vegetables, and nuts that the state produces. It will also impact lawns and personal gardens of residents, as Brown continued “watering grass every day is going to be a thing of the past.” California is in its fourth straight year of severe draught. Farmers use 80 percent of the water, and rice and almonds, two of their best paying crops, need lots of water. 52.5 million people in 11 western states, including California and Nevada are struggling with draught conditions.
For long-time Las Vegans, along with the danger of not having enough water for continuing support of life, it’s also a sad sight. I remember taking my little kids out to view the lake back in the 1970s. As we came around a curve in the highway, the deep blue gem that was Lake Mead came into view. Out here, in the middle of a dry desert, this gorgeous anomaly existed. It was breathtaking! People enjoyed the nautical atmosphere, marinas were always busy with activity and property near the lake was at a premium for people who enjoyed lake life. Now, the properties that were once lakeside are far away from the lake and many of those marinas no longer exist, having gone out of business. Some hardy souls moved their boat ramps to the new level of the lake. The sight of the “bath tub” ring is one that saddens the heart of many.
Why did we allow it to happen? Climate change and the shifting of the precipitation patterns are part of the problem. But we could have, and should have, taken better control of how much new building was allowed. As always with the human race, greed got the upper hand and allowed us to “pull the wool” over our own eyes. Now everyone suffers the consequences of our lack of management.
Can’t Something Be Done?
Well there’s always seeding of clouds to get more precipitation, but it doesn’t always work and it’s costly. The Las Vegas Review-Journal Reporter for the Carson City Capital Bureau Sandra Chereb reports that funding is being sought to re-fund the could seeding program next winter. The State of Nevada had helped fund the cloud seeding for decades, but when the economy tanked in 2008, state funds dried up. It’s an iffy process anyway, not guaranteed to work. Once the money is spent and rain doesn’t occur, it’s money thrown away. What to do??
Here’s Something We Actually CAN Do
We CAN stop building and construction of new areas and new homes. That won’t put more water in our communities, but it might stave off the danger of drying up the reservoir entirely. But it’s a little late for this measure, and zero growth has never been a city’s priority and probably won’t be now either. I don’t know the answer to this question, but something needs to be done quickly before this side of the world decides to move back to the other side. In other words, resources there, on the midwest and east side of the nation would soon become just as strained as what we are experiencing here. There must be a solution and I hope somebody finds it quickly. Water is, perhaps, the most precious resource for the human race.
If you’d like to read more from this author about Lake Mead, go to this link: Lake Mead America’s Largest Man Made Lake
To read more on Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, St. Thomas, and the new Michael O’Callahan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge you might like the following books: