LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Intake number one at Lake Mead has already been shut down due to low water levels leaving intake numbers two and three to do the heavy lifting. The third intake, the deepest one, was built at the cost of almost $1 billion and began drawing water in 2015.
On Thursday, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) Board of Directors approved spending $1.4 million to study whether or not the intake of the third straw will need to be moved as the level of Lake Mead continues to drop.
The “third straw” draws drinking water at 895 feet (272.8 meters) above sea level — about 20 feet below a point where water would not be released downstream from Hoover Dam and no electricity would be generated. This is known as dead pool.
With the approval, SNWA General Manager John Entsminger will sign an agreement between Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. and the SNWA to provide an engineering services evaluation on the third intake.
The third straw currently sits at the end of a pipe that rests in the original channel of the Colorado River. It takes in water 190 feet below the second straw. The tunnel carrying the third straw’s water is three miles long and has a diameter of 20 feet.
Entsminger said the reason for the study is to determine if the quality of the water being drawn in will be affected by lower levels. Options include shortening the verticle pipe where the end of the intake sits, which could lower the intake water level by more than 50 feet.
Lake Mead’s water level is 1,046 feet above sea level, 151 feet above the current third straw intake. As of Friday morning, Lake Mead is 15 feet lower than it was on this date in 2022.