NATIONAL NEWS

Vegas water intake now visible at drought-stricken Lake Mead

Apr 30, 2022, 11:44 AM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 11:02 am
FILE: Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada, on June 21, 2021. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Im...
FILE: Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada, on June 21, 2021. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A massive drought-starved reservoir on the Colorado River has become so depleted that Las Vegas now is pumping water from deeper within Lake Mead where other states downstream don’t have access.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority announced this week that its Low Lake Level Pumping Station is operational, and released photos of the uppermost intake visible at 1,050 feet (320 meters) above sea level at the lake behind Hoover Dam.

“While this emphasizes the seriousness of the drought conditions, we have been preparing for this for more than a decade,” said Bronson Mack, water authority spokesman. The low-level intake allows Las Vegas “to maintain access to its primary water supply in Lake Mead, even if water levels continue to decline due to ongoing drought and climate change conditions,” he said.

The move to begin using what had been seen as an in-case-we-need-it hedge against taps running dry comes as water managers in several states that rely on the Colorado River take new steps to conserve water amid what has become perpetual drought.

“We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water is not there,” Metropolitan Water District of Southern California spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch said this week. The agency told some 6 million people in sprawling Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties to cut their outdoor watering to one day a week, effective June 1, or face stiff fines.

The surface level of another massive Colorado River reservoir, Lake Powell, dipped below a critical threshold in March — raising concerns about whether Glen Canyon Dam can continue generating power for some 5 million customers across the U.S. West.

Lake Mead and Lake Powell upstream are the largest human-made reservoirs in the U.S., part of a system that provides water to more than 40 million people, tribes, agriculture and industry in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and across the southern border in Mexico.

At Lake Mead, the new pumps are fed by an intake drilled nearer to the bottom of the lake and completed in 2020 to ensure the ability to continue to draw water for Las Vegas, its casinos, suburbs and 2.4 million residents and 40 million tourists per year.

The “third straw” draws drinking water at 895 feet (272.8 meters) above sea level — below a point at which water would not be released downstream from Hoover Dam.

Together, the pipeline and pump projects cost more than $1.3 billion. Drilling began in 2014, amid projections that the lake level would continue to fall due to drought. Increasingly dry conditions in the region are now attributed to long-term climate change.

Lake Mead, between Nevada and Arizona, reached its high-water mark in July 1983, at 1,225 feet (373.4 meters) above sea level. On Friday, the level was 1,055 feet (321.6 meters) — about 30% full. Some of the steepest cliffs bordering the lake show 170 feet (51.8 meters) of white mineral “bathtub ring.”

“Without the third intake, Southern Nevada would be shutting its doors,” said Pat Mulroy, former longtime chief of the Las Vegas-based water authority, who is now a consultant. “That’s pretty obvious, since the first straw is out of the water.”

A mid-level pipeline also can draw water from 1,000 feet (304.8 meters).

The authority maintains that the Las Vegas water supply is not immediately threatened. It points to water conservation efforts that it says since 2002 have cut regional consumption of Colorado River water by 26% while the area population has increased 49%.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

FILE: A Frontier airlines plane lands at the Miami International Airport on June 16, 2021 in Miami,...
Zoe Sottile

Frontier Airlines announces new unlimited summer flight pass

Frontier Airlines has announced its newest incentive to get travelers back in the air post-pandemic: An unlimited summer flight pass that costs $399.
22 hours ago
Born on May 11, 1992, Bobi is 30 years and 268 days old. (Guinness World Records)...
Amarachi Orie

Meet, Bobi. The new official world’s oldest living dog

Sorry, Spike. There's a new world's oldest living dog, and he's the oldest ever recorded
22 hours ago
Flames erupt after a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3. (Courtesy Kevin Csern...
Rebekah Riess and Hannah Sarisohn

Train derailment in northeastern Ohio sparks massive fire

A train derailment and resulting large fire have prompted an evacuation order in an Ohio village near the Pennsylvania state line.
22 hours ago
In this photo provided by Brian Branch, a large balloon drifts above the Kingstown, N.C. area, with...
Zachary Cohen

US military has shot down the Chinese spy balloon off US East Coast, US official says

The US military has shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, a US official said Saturday.
22 hours ago
A graphic image of a plane-like spacecraft...
Ashley Strickland

Cosmic seaplanes and self-growing bricks could help us explore other worlds

What are the emerging technologies that could provide new ways of studying the universe?
22 hours ago
A man works at an avocado orchard in Santa Ana Zirosto, Michoacan state, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 26,...
Associated Press

Route to Super Bowl is long, dangerous for Mexican avocados

It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Vegas water intake now visible at drought-stricken Lake Mead