Lake Mead hits new low as drought ravages the western US

Ryan Gorman
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By RYAN GORMAN

Nevada's Lake Mead reservoir has been virtually drained as the drought ravaging the western U.S. has caused water levels to drop to historic lows.

Staggering new photos show how the manmade body of water outside Las Vegas is now 147.23 feet below capacity and 133.99 feet below its last peak in 1998, federal officials said.

A stark visual reminder of just how dry Lake Mead is becoming can be seen in the form of a white ring around the rocks along the reservoir's coastline.

The solid line where the light-colored rock meets the darker rocks shows where water levels have historically sat, according to the government.

The section of the cliffs closer to the water is grey because of minerals deposited on its surface while it was covered with the life-giving liquid.

Similar reminders can be seen on pictures of the Hoover Dam.

Water levels are dropping because western winters are less snowy than in the past. Melted snow accounts for 96 percent of the lake's water sources.

Runoff was 96 percent of normal in 2014, but only 47 percent in 2013 and 45 percent in 2012, officials said.

Fears are growing that the lake's elevation might drop below 1,000 feet for the first time in its history.

Authorities believe it will drop to only 1,080 feet by November. A dry winter could lead to further catastrophic drop next summer.

Lake Mead's all-time high elevation, reached in 1998, was 1,215.76 feet.

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