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20110316__WSJ_LakeMead__0015.jpg
Lake Mead, Nevada, March 16, 2011 - A view of picnic tables and palm trees at a receded Las Vegas Bay on Lake Mead. When water levels are normal, the dry basin in the distance is filled with water. Lake Mead has been one of America's most popular recreation areas, with a 12-month season that attracts more than 9 million visitors each year for swimming, boating, skiing, fishing and other outdoor pursuits. Currently it is experiencing a 10 year drought that has diminished the water to levels not seen since the lake was created. ..Lake Mead is the largest water reservoir in the United States. Located on the Colorado River southeast of Las Vegas, it is the major reserve for Nevada, California and Arizona. The city of Las Vegas alone gets 90% of its water from Lake Mead. The lake is currently experiencing a ten year drought, recently dropping to1,083 feet - its lowest level since it was dammed in the 1930s. If it drops further, there is the potential for cutoffs of water for hydro-electricity, agriculture and cities across the Southwest. The current level is near emergency level: if drops to 1075, the Secretary of Interior will have to declare a severe water emergency and major cutbacks will ensue. If gets below 1025, all water for hydro from Hoover Dam shut off. If it falls below 1,000 feet the intake valves that pull water from the Lake for consumption will no longer be operational.