The reservoir created by Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel that symbolized the American ascendance of the 20th Century, has sunk to its lowest level ever, underscoring the gravity of the extreme drought across the U.S. West.
The surface elevation of Lake Mead along the Arizona-Nevada border fell to 1,071.56 feet above sea level, dipping below the previous record low set on July 1, 2016. It has fallen 140 feet (42.7 meters) since 2000 – nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty from torch to base – exposing a bathtub ring of bleached-white embankments.
The reservoir is a major water supply source for more than 20 million people. Among them are residents of such big cities as Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
“People are certainly concerned,” Patti Aaron, a spokeswoman for the US Bureau of Reclamation, told the Associated Press.
“We expect the water level to continue decreasing inside the reservoir until November, then it should rise again,” she added.
Lake Mead was carved out of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s. Thousands of people took part in the giant engineering project during the Great Depression, with more than 100 people losing their lives during the construction of the lake.
Water levels have been receding since 2000. The drought is getting worse, as scientists say climate change is exacerbating the situation.
Within weeks, drought swept through several cities in the southwest of America, and this led to the destruction of the agricultural sector in the region.
With droughts common, the city of Las Vegas has banned “non-functional turf” – that is, lawn outside of commercial areas or between stretches of roads.