High good, low bad: Mead in October

Posted on | November 1, 2009 | 3 Comments


Source: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Digital Collections.

WHEN the Colorado River’s water was divided by treaty in the 1920s, Nevadan negotiators never imagined that Las Vegas would need more than 300,000 acre feet of water a year (compared to Arizona’s 2.8m and California’s 4.4m). The population of Clark County was roughly 2,500. Its largest city, Las Vegas, a railroad town, already had groundwater and native springs, if not the semitropical climate promised in this Chamber of Commerce brochure, date unknown.

The once ebullient springs of Las Vegas are now dry, Clark County is 90% dependent on that 300,000 acre feet of water from Lake Mead, the reservoir containing Colorado River water impounded behind Hoover Dam. The population of greater Las Vegas is roughly two million and cities such as San Diego, Phoenix and Los Angeles also vie for water from water in Lake Mead.

Meanwhile, Mead is shrinking.

The maximum elevation is 1,229 feet. At midnight October 31st, 2009, it was 1,093.26. Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager, Patricia Mulroy, has declared that once the water line sinks to 1,075 feet, Las Vegas will begin construction on a 300-mile-long pipeline that will augment Lake Mead supplies by siphoning groundwater from farmland in central Nevada’s Lincoln and White Pine counties.

The reliability of that already controversial back-up supply was thrown into doubt last week when a Nevadan district judge voided awards of water in three key valleys along the proposed pipeline route. The Authority says that it plans to appeal the decision in the Nevada Supreme Court.

In the meantime, here are contrasting elevations for Lake Mead from the US Bureau of Reclamation for October 31st going back to 2005. These year-on-year numbers show that the lake has fallen 34.17 feet in the last five years.

October 31, 2009: 1,093.26

October 31, 2008: 1,107.94

October 31, 2007: 1,110.95

October 31, 2006: 1,126.13

October 31, 2005: 1,137.01

October 31, 2004: 1,127.43

This post has been updated.


3 Responses to “High good, low bad: Mead in October”

  1. Kip White
    November 2nd, 2009 @ 5:55 am

    Emily, we had met when you were doing work in Las Vegas. This is the first I have seen of your blog, quite good!! FYI for future reference, the Bureau of Reclamation is properly identified as the “federal Bureau of Reclamation,” not the US Bureau of Reclamation.

    Kip White
    Deputy Chief Public Affairs
    Bureau of Reclamation

  2. EmilyGreen
    November 2nd, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

    Kip, Nice to catch up and thanks for the kind words. That’s so funny about USBR being properly called the federal BR. Very canny way to catch out us parvenues!
    Hope all’s well in the high desert. Thanks for the post.

  3. Todd Jarvis
    November 8th, 2009 @ 7:55 am

    Maybe Kip can correct the Wikipedia entry which is probably a source of confusion for those of us outside the federal government community:


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