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Scorched Earth: The repercussions of Lake Mead's water shortage

The Bureau of Reclamation declared the first-ever Level 1 water shortage condition for Lake Mead earlier this year. Take a look back in this 12 News special.

William Pitts, Dylan Dulberg

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Published: 7:30 PM MST December 27, 2021
Updated: 7:35 AM MST May 10, 2022

Editor's note: This story and five-part series on Lake Mead's draining water supply aired in August of this year. 

New projections released in September showed there's a chance as high as 66% that water levels at Lake Mead will decline to 1,025 feet by 2025, triggering a Tier 3 Shortage. 

By October, updated projections suggested Lake Mead, which is a critical water resource for Arizona, could be sinking closer to a threshold that will trigger additional water cutbacks for the state. 

Vice President Kamala Harris toured Lake Mead and surrounding facilities that same month to gauge how the drought has been affecting the lake's water supply.

The repercussions of a draining water supply are immense -- farms are drying up, a once-thriving marina now sits more than a mile from lake water and Arizona's Department of Water Resources is planning water cuts that could impact municipal water supplies as early as 2024.

>> Find full coverage on 12news.com/scorched-earth

Credit: AP
In this July 16, 2014 photo, a buoy at what was once the Echo Bay Marina sits high and dry next to Lake Mead in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada. A 14-year drought has caused the water level in Lake Mead to shrink to its lowest point since it was first filled in the 1930s. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The water at Hoover Dam should be near the top of the dam. But the water hasn’t been that high in 40 years.

Decades of drought have dropped the lake level 158 feet, exposing the bathtub ring, the whitewashed section of rock that used to be under the water.

In August, the Bureau of Reclamation declared the first-ever Level 1 water shortage condition for Lake Mead. It sets off a series of water cuts that take effect in 2022. 

12 News, along with sister stations across Western states, set out to understand the dire conditions our states face as drought and wildfire continue to rage.

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