LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The West is suffering through a long and crippling drought. In measurements taken late Wednesday night, the water level at Lake Mead officially fell to its lowest since the reservoir was filled.
For 85 years, Lake Mead has provided Nevada, California and Arizona with cheap power and water.
It’s another sign of the long drought our region has endured for years.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says the lake level will probably keep falling until November.
That’s going to affect everything from recreation to hydropower.
Already, Nevada and Arizona are expecting to get less water from the Colorado River starting next year.
But the continued drop in water level really impacts the entire western U.S. — especially for farmers.
“So next year, we are gonna get 25% less water. Means we’re going to have to fallow — or not plant — 25% of our land,” said Arizona farmer Dan Thelander.
Many farmers are rushing to dig wells to tap into groundwater.
And as Lake Mead’s level drops — it’s currently just 37% full, it’s time to conserve water.
If the federal government declares a water shortage for 2022, it would mean a decline of about 8,000 acre-feet of water to Nevada. So what’s an acre-foot? It’s the amount of water it would take to cover a one-acre area, one foot deep. That’s 325,851 gallons.
Currently, there are no cuts being made in Nevada because the state doesn’t use the entire amount it is allotted from the lake.
But Gov. Steve Sisolak is being proactive to save water.
He signed legislation to get rid of non-functional turf.
Beth Moore with the Southern Nevada Water Authority says it’s for grass that never gets stepped on. Think about where some of that grass is growing — in medians, near sidewalks, and in parking lots.
“We identified that there are approximately 5,000 acres of non-functional turf in the valley that accounts for about 12% of our water use,” Moore said.
California and Arizona will be impacted more when it comes to mandatory cuts.
But because of complex agreements with Nevada, those states will likely be using credits from previous years to offset the mandatory cuts.
That means they could still take huge amounts of water from Lake Mead.
The biggest water users are not on the Las Vegas Strip or homes. Farms use the most water.
The Strip only uses about 4% of Southern Nevada’s water.