High good, low bad: Mead in October

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.