By Peter Chawaga
As historic drought grows throughout the American West, a critical source water body has now reached a shocking low.
“Water levels in Lake Mead are continuing to deplete to dangerous levels — so much so that the reservoir could soon hit ‘dead pool’ levels,” ABC News reported. “The minimum surface elevation needed to generate power at the Hoover Dam is 1,050 feet… Anything below that is considered ‘inactive pool,’ and a ‘dead pool’ exists at 895 feet in elevation.”
Lake Mead is the country’s largest manmade reservoir, providing drinking water and electricity to millions of consumers living across the Western United States, which is experiencing acute source water scarcity due to climate change and increased stress on existing supplies. Lake Mead hit historic lows last year, but U.S. officials decided to increase reliance on its dwindling supplies to protect the imperiled Colorado River earlier this year.
The potential of the lake becoming a “dead pool” is still likely to be a few years away, but its journey there could have severe consequences — not just for the availability of drinking water, but for Lake Mead’s use in generating power.
“Dead pool would not mean that there was no water left in the reservoir, but even before Lake Mead were to hit that point, there are concerns that water levels could fall so low that the production of hydroelectric power would be hindered,” according to Esquire. “As a reservoir is depleted, there is less water flowing through turbines and less liquid pressure to make them spin, which means the turbines produce less electricity.”
And Lake Mead’s water levels are dropping so low that the term “dead pool” now could have a disturbing double meaning.
“The megadrought has become so intense that … the receded waters in Lake Mead revealed multiple human bodies, some that may have been dumped in the reservoir,” per ABC News.
As the underlying causes of this drought persist and it rages on, it’s hard to predict what new historic firsts will be reached for Western source bodies. In the meantime, drinking water systems will be forced to adapt as best they can.
To read more about how drought is impacting water systems, visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.