New satellite imagery from NASA shows Lake Mead’s dramatically shrinking shoreline and how parts of the once-expansive reservoir have mineralized over the past two decades.
Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, is at just 27% capacity, according to NASA, the lowest since April 1937 when it was first filled.
The lake on the Nevada-Arizona border is almost unrecognizable as it was 22 years ago, according to photos released by NASA Wednesday.
An image taken from space on July 6, 2000 shows the lake full and a deep shade of blue. Another photo taken on July 3 shows a lighter color, meaning areas that were formerly submerged are mineralized, a phenomenon known as the “bathtub ring” effect.
At the end of July 2000, around the time of the first satellite image, the water level at Hoover Dam was 1,199.97 feet above sea level. By July 18 of this year, around the time of the second image, it sank to 1,041.30 feet, according to data from the US Bureau of Reclamation.
Another photo from 2021 shows the Virgin River connecting to Lake Mead’s Overton Arm, mineralized. The year before, the river was completely filled with water.
The lake is drying up due to climate change and severe drought, according to NASA.
“The largest reservoir in the United States supplies water to millions of people in seven states, tribal areas and northern Mexico. It also now features a strong illustration of climate change and a long-lasting drought this could be the worst western US in 12 centuries,” NASA said.
The lake has a maximum elevation capacity of 1,220 feet, a level last reached in 1983 and 1999, according to NASA.
Today, the lake is dangerously close to the deadpool when the reservoir dips below 895 feet and is low enough that water cannot flow downstream from Hoover Dam. But experts say that possibility is years away.
As the lake has receded, the waters once frequented by visitors have dried up, revealing long-sunken secrets including a body found in a barrel, a WWII-era ship, and pleasure boats.
Due to falling water levels and “20-year drought,” five out of six boat ramps on Lake Mead are closed National Park Service said.
The lake draws most of its water from snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains, which flows down the Colorado River watershed through Lake Powell, Glen Canyon, and the Grand Canyon. Snow cover from last winter was below average in some areas, NASA reported.
Lake Mead isn’t the only area feeling the effects of the drought.
Overall, according to NASA, 74% of the nine western states experience some degree of drought, with 35% of the area experiencing extreme or exceptional drought.
Additionally, the entire Colorado River system, which includes Lake Mead, is only at 35% capacity. Show data from the complaints office. This system supplies electricity and water to around 40 million people, including the cities of San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
Last month, the bureau issued an emergency request to states in the Colorado River basin to reduce water use to prevent further depletion of the system.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/dramatic-nasa-satellite-images-show-lake-mead-water-levels-receded-200-rcna39803 NASA satellite imagery shows how much Lake Mead has receded since 2000