Photo by Ryan Thorpe via Unsplash

In June, the reservoir created by the Hoover Dam decreased to its lowest level ever, raising concerns about reduced output from the connected hydroelectric plant that powers more than half of Southern California. The drought contributes to the decline in water supply and efficiency of generated hydropower at the Hoover Dam. 

In the 1930s, Lake Mead was created through the damming of the Colorado River in Nevada, the largest reservoir by volume in the nation. It provides water across the Southwest while also generating electricity for one of the largest hydroelectric plants in the U.S. It supplies water to 25 million people in cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson and Las Vegas. 

Lake Mead’s low water levels add uncertainty to the reliability of electricity this summer as a drought and heat waves grip the West. According to Dough Hendrix at the Bureau of Reclamation, the reservoir was roughly 158 feet below its full level as of last week, which manages water resources in the West. 

The reservoir’s capacity fluctuates, but Lake Mead is considered “full” when the water line reaches an elevation of 1,221.4 feet above sea level, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. As of June 28, Lake Mead was recorded to have a low elevation of 1,069.4 feet above sea level according to a released report. That is about 35% of its capacity. 

“The lake was about 95% full in year 2000, and now we’re at 35%,” said Patti Aaron, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation, Lower Colorado Region.

Officials expect water levels to exacerbate throughout the summer. In 2016, the previous record of its low water level was set at 1,071.6 feet above sea level. Until now, the lake has been below that historic low. 

“Under full reservoir conditions, we can generate about 2,074 megawatts of power here, enough for around a million residents,” Hendrix told KTLA 5. “Because of the lower reservoir conditions, unfortunately now we’re down to only generating about 66% efficiency.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared drought emergencies in 41 of California’s 58 counties, encompassing 30% of the state’s population. While none of those counties are located in Southern California, the region is experiencing severe and extreme drought

While the West is expected to get a little relief from high temperatures and the prolonged, persisting drought, the demand for power is likely to continue to increase throughout the summer, which will increasingly push California’s stressed power system to the edge. 

Scriberr News reached out to public affairs officials at the Bureau of Reclamation but did not respond by the deadline.

Written ByVivian Kwang

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