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Drought in Nevada a big concern

The drought in California is not the only drought facing the West. The fourteen-year drought in Nevada at the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, is now at a critical level.

It’s at the lowest capacity level since it was built in the 1930’s, sitting at about 40% of its potential. In the past 15 years, the levels have dropped 140 feet, and are expected to drop a further 10 feet this summer.

The levels are so concerning, the Bureau of Reclamation will need to ration water across Nevada, Arizona and California.

Lake_mead_july_2009The drought in Nevada has so far affected communities in the state, as well as the vegetation and animals that rely on the water source for their survival.

Approximately 70% of the water is used for growing crops, and provides drinking water for up to 40 million people.

Farmers and ranchers are losing their livelihood, and the risk of wildfire has drastically increased.

What caused the drought in Nevada?

Increasingly hot summers are intensifying the dryness of the state. The three previous winters have produced only half the mountain snowpacks of previous years.

Low precipitation and scorching temperatures have only amplified the situation. All of this combined means there is less water run-off into streams and rivers, and therefore lower water levels in Lake Mead.Southwest map of drought

Why are the levels of Lake Mead so low?

There are reports that the levels of Lake Mead are so low due to mismanagement and over-allocation of the water supply.

Obviously the drought is a major factor in the low water levels, but misallocation certainly doesn’t help either.

Also, part of the water supply in Lake Mead comes from states such as Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

And not only do these states allocate some of the water for themselves, they actually planning to build other dams that will divert water away from Lake Mead.

Will climate change make the drought in Nevada worse?

The Rockies could experience shorter winters due to climate change. Therefore, there could be even less water flowing into Lake Mead which will decrease water levels even further.

Here’s hoping the impending El Niño will bring some relief.

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