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Images reveal dramatic drop in Lake Mead water levels



By MORGAN WHITAKER

Dramatic new images taken from space have confirmed a trend scientists and conservationists have been following for years -- the largest reservoir in the United States is shrinking and may reach dangerously low levels in the near future.

The stunning new pictures released by NASA, taken about 13 months apart by the Landsat 8 satellite, show how the water levels on Lake Mead have dropped, revealing more and more dry land.

Lake Mead Still Shrinking
NASA image taken July 21, 2014

Lake Mead Still Shrinking
NASA image taken June 16, 2013

When compared with levels in January 2013, when the lake was above 1122 feet, the staggering drop becomes even more obvious.

Lake Mead Still Shrinking
The water levels on Lake Mead have not dropped below 1078 feet since the Hoover Dam was completed nearly 75 years ago, but scientists expect that might finally happen soon.

Lake Mead is fed primarily by the Colorado River Basin and provides water for roughly 20 million farms, businesses and residents who live in Nevada, Arizona and parts of California, according to CBS News, and since 2000, the lake has lost an estimated 4 trillion gallons of water.

"It's a pretty critical point," Pat Mulroy, who serves as general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, told CBS. "The rate at which our weather patterns are changing is so dramatic that our ability to adapt to it is really crippled."

The potential crisis facing Lake Mead and the broader Colorado River Basin has caught the attention of some celebrities too. Well-known conservationist and Hollywood A-listers Robert Redford and Will Ferrell teamed up earlier this year to try to raise awareness for a project to help revive the river by adding water to it for the Raise the River campaign.




The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expects the water levels at Lake Mead to drop to 1,080 feet in November of this year but don't predict a major crisis yet.

While the agency isn't currently projecting a water shortage in 2015, officials told the New York Times earlier this year there is a 50-50 chance that use of Lake Mead's water will need to be rationed next year.

As NASA points out, the images help show why "something has to change soon in precipitation patterns or water use."

Lake Mead Water Levels Reach New Low

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