Hoover Dam and Lake Mead key in providing water to lower Colorado River basin

BOULDER CITY, Nev. -- Ron Tischer grew up in Las Vegas, but says the water levels he saw at Lake Mead on a recent trip with his kids are somewhat disturbing.

“It’s a lot lower than what I’m used to seeing,” he said.

Colorado River: Lifeline of the West airs Saturday, August 5 at 6:30 p.m. with an encore presentation Sunday, August 6 at 2 p.m. 

Lake Mead is the reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River about an hour outside Las Vegas.

“The drought really kicked in about 2000,” the Bureau of Reclamation’s Rose Davis told Eric Lupher while standing above the dam. “We've had 17 years of low drought so what you see now when you look around is about 145 feet low.”

The water levels at Lake Mead are watched closely.

Hoover Dam is instrumental in delivering water to states in the Colorado River’s lower basin, which includes California, Arizona and Nevada.

In fact, 90 percent of the water used in nearby Las Vegas comes from Lake Mead, but don’t blame the tourists for using too much water. Most of it is used by residents in the area. In fact, the resorts are so good at conserving water they have found ways to not only reuse it on their own properties, but they’ve developed ways to send some of it back to Lake Mead.

Davis says conserving the water is on everyone’s mind.

“We had a good winter this winter and the conservation measures from the states and people like me at my house taking care of my water supply is really helping to keep water in Lake Mead and keep the levels up,” she said.

In fact, she doesn’t think Lake Mead will ever completely dry up and go away.

“I think we continue to face challenges in water allocation. We continue to face challenges with climate change,” she said. “We're doing a lot of studying about how that has altered the way the snow has come and the rains have come. But I don't think Lake Mead is going anywhere.”

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