Terrifying Lake Mead photos show how bad the drought has gotten

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Terrifying Lake Mead photos show how bad the drought has gotten
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Drought continues to pummel the American West and shows little sign of relenting as the country heads deeper into another hot, dry summer.

Nowhere is the drought more apparent than in Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, located along the Colorado River in Arizona and Nevada behind the Hoover Dam.

It’s just the latest turn in the decades-long “megadrought” that has decimated the region, and a symptom of the unfolding climate crisis.

New and horrifying photos from the lake show just how bad conditions have become.

A man sits near his beached houseboat on the shore of Lake Mead (AP)
A man sits near his beached houseboat on the shore of Lake Mead (AP)

This year, the lake has reached record low levels — currently at just 27 per cent of capacity — as that corner of the country enters “Exceptional Drought” conditions, the worst drought category.

A coyote walks across what was once the bottom of the lake and is now a dry stretch of land (AP)
A coyote walks across what was once the bottom of the lake and is now a dry stretch of land (AP)

The lake is also an important source of water for cities like Las Vegas. This year, one of the Vegas’s original water intake valves in the lake dropped below the water level for the first time. A new, deeper intake valve started operating this year.

A ring of dead fish, placed in a circle by a visitor, lining the dried lakebed of Lake Mead (AP)
A ring of dead fish, placed in a circle by a visitor, lining the dried lakebed of Lake Mead (AP)

The current drought is part of the ongoing “megadrought” in the western US, which as decimated water supplies in the region for over 20 years.

A recent study found that the past couple of decades have been the driest 22-year period in the area for at least 1,200 years.

What was once the bottom of the lake now lies baking in the sun, after water levels in Lake Mead have dropped precipitously due to drought (EPA)
What was once the bottom of the lake now lies baking in the sun, after water levels in Lake Mead have dropped precipitously due to drought (EPA)

And conditions are expected to get worse as the climate crisis grows. For every one degree of warming, the Colorado river’s flow has decreased by about 9.3 per cent, a 2020 study found — and that trend is likely to continue as the planet warms further.

A beached boat sticks up in the sand on the shores of the lake (EPA)
A beached boat sticks up in the sand on the shores of the lake (EPA)

“An increasing risk of severe water shortages is expected,” the authors write.

With that drying out, the lake has started to reveal previously hidden relics of the past. Recently, a sunken World War II-era boat resurfaced — after once lying nearly 200 feet underwater. And in the spring, a body in a barrel washed up, believed to be the remains of a decades-old murder.

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