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Low water levels at Lake Mead impact power from Hoover Dam | News

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Low water levels at Lake Mead impact power from Hoover Dam

LAS VEGAS -- Lake Mead is reaching historic lows not seen since the lake was filled in the 1930s. The lower levels are having an impact on the amount of electricity Hoover Dam produces.

The Hoover Dam produces electricity to serve about 1.3 million people a year. Most of the power is purchased by California with about one-quarter of it going to Nevada.

Tour groups can be found at the dam most days. On this particular tour, the guide explains the lower water level.

"The water maintenance level should actually be about halfway up that white line," the guide tells the group.

"We've come across the dam here quite a few times, and we've never seen in this low," said Kenneth Absher who is visiting from California.

The lake is about to be at its lowest level ever.

"The level of Lake Mead is supposed to drop to an elevation of 1081.75 over the next few days, which is the lowest elevation it's ever been since the lake was filled when Hoover Dam was built," said Rose Davis, Bureau of Reclamation.

Lake Mead is not only the primary water source for Las Vegas, but it's also how Hoover Dam produces power. Simply put, the lower the lake, the less electricity.

"Our concern is the ability to generate power. We've seen a 23 percent reduction in our capacity to generate power since the lake continues to drop," Davis said.

The hydroelectric facility is taking steps so its current capacity of 1592 megawatts won't go down anymore.

"We've been proactive over the last five years in putting in new equipment that operates more efficiently at low lake levels," Davis said.

Three wide head turbines have been installed, and two more are on the way in the next couple years. It's hoped they will arrive before Lake Mead gets to catastrophic levels that could bring the dam to screeching halt.

"What we call the dead pool, which is the elevation of Lake Mead where Hoover Dam cannot generate any power is about 950 feet," Davis said.

For now, states like California and Nevada still get their electricity from the 77-year-old manmade wonder, as long as the Southwest doesn't get dangerously dry. About 96 percent of the water in Lake Mead is from melted snow that fell in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming. Lake Mead needs several years of strong snow packs to get out of the drought.



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