Drought leaves Colorado River reservoir without water

ALBUQUERQUE, New MeA major reservoir on the Colorado River has dropped to an all-time low in a new sign of the drought hitting the American Southwest.

Lake Mead’s surface level along the Nevada-Arizona border dropped to 1,071 feet (326.6 meters) at 11 p.m. Wednesday. That level was last recorded in July 2016 and is 5.6 meters (18.5 feet) lower than a year ago, according to the Department of the Interior’s Office of Recovery. It is the lowest level since Lake Mead was filled in the 1930s.

“We expect the dam to continue to decline until November, then it should start to recover,” said Patti Aaron.

The water level affects the recreation industry in one of the largest artificial water reserves in the country. It also affects the efficiency of electricity generation at the Hoover Dam.

It will not be used to determine next year’s water deliveries to Arizona, California and Nevada until August, when the Office of Recovery issues its official projection. The agency has said it expects to issue its first shortage declaration in Arizona and Nevada.

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“People are certainly concerned,” Aaron said. “You look at the reserve and it is worrying.”

Lake Mead levels rise and fall throughout the year depending on weather patterns and how much water is consumed or evaporated. Officials project the lake level to drop to 1,064 feet (324 meters) before recovering in November, when agricultural needs decline, Aaron said.

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