Jul 22, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Lake Mead's water levels sink to lowest since 1937

Satellite images showing Lake Mead with much more water in 2000 compared to Lake Mead in 2022 with less water
Satellite images showing Lake Mead in 2000 (left) compared to 2022 (right). Photos: Lauren Dauphin via NASA

Lake Mead's water levels have sunk to the lowest since 1937, when the reservoir was being filled for the first time, according to newly released satellite pictures from NASA.

Why it matters: The images show the dramatic change in the lake's water levels in the past 22 years, a trend that continues to accelerate amid the effects of climate change. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., was at 27% of capacity as of Monday, per NASA. The dwindling water supply has led to multiple wildfires.

  • The decline of the lake, which supplies water to millions of people across seven states, tribal lands and northern Mexico, "provides a stark illustration of climate change and a long-term drought that may be the worst in the U.S. West in 12 centuries," NASA said in its update.

The big picture: 74% of nine Western states currently face some level of drought. Las Vegas officials have limited the size of new swimming pools in and around the city in an effort to conserve, AP reports.

  • Lake Mead last neared full capacity in the summers of 1983 and 1999.

Flashback: First-ever water shortage declared for Lake Mead

Go deeper