Roberta's Las Vegas Real Estate Blog: LAKE MEAD RUNS DRY by 2021!!!!

LAKE MEAD RUNS DRY by 2021!!!!

This is what you may have heard from a recent report out by Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It claims that Lake Mead has a 50% chance of running dry by 2021. Being from Las Vegas, I'd like to add to this gloom and doom report. LAS VEGAS HAS ALREADY RUN OUT OF WATER!!! Yes, that's right, it ran out of water as predicted when the population reached 900,000. That happened in 1993, when the population in Clark Co. topped that figure.
Amazingly, the population today is now over 2 million, the visitor count up to almost 40 million a year with many more mega resorts, and yet we can still flush out toilets and haven's dehydrated and turned into dust. How? Planning that began long before the current 500 year drought, and using conservation and science. Yes we have the technology.
Those water features you see with pirate battles and dancing fountains? Highly recycled reverse osmosis purification of grey water and trapped underground water. The resorts of Las Vegas use under 10% of the water supply, but through recycling and what they put back into the system, they consume only around 3%. The entire community's water system also uses water recycling and gains return flow credits for the water it puts back into Lake Mead.  Residential has the highest water usage in the valley, and the primary waste was in watering landscape. Both business and residential customers have been educated to use water smart plants and paid turf replacement programs have been in place for years. New technologies have been used, with more recycling and water storage. It's why other areas facing drought, like the southeast, are now looking to Las Vegas for solutions to their more pressing water issues, with some areas reaching only days of supply.

So back to the Scripps "predictions". It assumes continued drought from global warming long into the future. If you go back to the mid 70's, there were "predictions" of global cooling and a second ice age.  Seems that prediction was way off base. If you watch your local weather, I think you'll agree they often have trouble predicting what will happen next week, let alone next decade. Then they're saying it's a 50% chance of this happening? I guess I could say there's a 50% chance of sun tomorrow, and be half right.

Obviously you can't deny there has been a rise in temperatures and changes in weather patterns, as has happened throughout earth's history. This 500 year drought (yes, it's happened before) in the West is a perfect example, as is the drought in the southeast. The strong hurricanes that have hit the gulf in recent years were another sign. Strangely enough, the "predictions" for continued and more frequent storms in the gulf didn't happen this past year. Even better for the West, precipitation has increased, and while one season isn't a fix, the January snow pack in the Colorado Basin was around 135% above average and more snow since then. That snowmelt supplies the lion's share of the Colorado water to Lake Mead. Scripps' study doesn't seem to predict this happening.

It appears this climate change could create one flaw in the Scripps timetable. Another thing they seemed to have missed is the new agreement between the Colorado water states. The original 1922 agreement had a "use it, or lose it" policy that forced the release of Arizona's and California's 96% water share from the lake. This new pact now allows them to bank their water in Lake Mead, and calls for new reservoirs to be built in both states, along with cooperative agreements for creating other sources, such as water desalinization plants. Since this was put into effect last Dec, water levels in Lake Mead have actually risen, slightly over 6' in 3 months......something that Scripps didn't include before releasing their study.

If you didn't notice from those AZ & CA figures, Nevada only gets a 4% share of the water from Lake Mead. Yet since this report I've heard media claiming Las Vegas needs to conserve water or it will not only drain the lake, but will dry up and blow away. That would be far from the truth. First, Vegas uses very little of the water, so it's 300,000 acre feet pales in comparison to the 9 million acre feet that has been released downstream each year. If Scripps' dire predictions of a "dead pool" were correct, when the lake would drop below 895' and water could no longer go past the dam, Las Vegas would still have water available. It will have the only low level intake at the former riverbed level, and AZ and CA would have a difficult time getting their water past all that concrete. While they implode an awful lot around here, I really don't think they'll be setting charges at Hoover anytime soon. I'd suspect that efficient conservation instead of the wasteful flood irrigation of the farms in Southern CA, or buying their large water rights outright, would be a more viable option.
Another plus for the Vegas water supply, and Lake Mead, is the ground water pipeline from northern Nevada. Again, it is smart planning to have an additional source of supply, plus with recycling it will add return flow credits. One well is from a formerly proposed MX missle site in northern Clark Co. That well produced an amazing 4000 gallons per minute. The water from it would be pumped into the muddy river that flows into Lake Mead, and could come online by 2010. This and any other well would be subject to ground water level monitoring  to prevent any ecological damage. To protect the lake from larger amounts of warmer surface water entering through it's natural "wash", and the potential for soil erosion, silting, and algae blooms, another tunnel will place the return at several points at the lake bottom. With more well thought planning, that 9 mile downhill flow will turn a series of turbines to generate power to help pay down the cost of the project.
I believe these droughts from warming have been a wake up call that everyone, and even those in rainy climates need to better manage their water resources. Instead of gloomy predictions and woe is me, it's time to look into the future and think smart. Just look at what Las Vegas has accomplished so far in the desert with 4" of annual rainfall and a tiny river water share.

If you are interested in relocating to Las Vegas or would like information on Las Vegas real estate, please email  or call me at 702-354-8988.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Comment balloon 11 commentsRoberta LaRocca • February 18 2008 01:12PM


Roberta - It seems like the global warming fans have had a bad last 12 month with no hurricanes on the East cost, and plenty of rain on the west coast, it just doesn't add up to what the inventor of the internet has been preaching. THe founder of the weather channel says it's the biggest scam in history. I put my money on him, he has nothing to gain.
Posted by Larry Brewer - Benchmark Realty llc (Benchmark Realty LLc) over 12 years ago

Thanks for a well-reasoned article about desert water. As an Arizona agent, I, too have an interest in Lakes Powel and Mead.

We do have responsiblility for rational water use, and to the downstream users such as Mexico.

Wasn't 500 years ago the time the Anasazi disappeared? We can do as Las Vegas has done and conserve, re-use and recycle or go the way of the Anasazi.

Posted by Jim Little, Your Sun City Arizona Realtor (Ken Meade Realty) over 12 years ago
You go Roberta!  I am a HUGE water fanatic here, especially being related to someone who worked at LVVWD for many years, it's a personal issue for me.  Yes, Lake Mead is down 100 feet from where it was, but WHY is it every report says "Las Vegas could use less water if the water district required low-flow systems indoors" but the Water District ENCOURAGES less outdoor water use??  Those who study, know the answer to this!  Way to do your homework on this one!
Posted by Denise Willer, "Where Therenulls a Willer Therenulls a Way" Las Vegas (Elite Realty) over 12 years ago

Larry:   I'm sure the next disaster studies will be waiting in the wings.....for more funding, of course.

Jim:  Yes, we do need to be aware and act responsibly. Vegas had to adapt because of it's small water share. This drought should be an eye opener for all, so we don't vanish like the Anasazi.  

Denise:  Thanks, I try to get the whole story before accepting the hyped stories that grab the headlines. LVVWD has done an amazing job of preparing for the future.

Posted by Roberta LaRocca, REALTOR®, Broker, Salesperson, NV. Lic BS.507 (Simply Vegas Real Estate) over 12 years ago


One of the reasons we moved to Austin from Vegas. I always worried not that the problem would be solved but how much it would cost us as residents. This is a great post

Posted by Alan Kirkpatrick, Alan in Austin (Austin Texas Homes) over 12 years ago
Funny that the amount of water we are allotted is way less when you compare it to our population.  This is a GREAT article.  It's nice to see the lake up 6 feet and that would be PRIOR to snow melt!  Did you see on the news last night that they are raising our water rates now?  We sure have had a nice wet winter.
Posted by Renée Donohue~Home Photography, Western Michigan Real Estate Photographer (Savvy Home Pix) over 12 years ago

Alan: Unfortunately, with this drought, there will have to more money spent on infrastructure for water storage across the country.  It doesn't appear that any area is exempt.

Renee: Yes, I saw that they raised the rates and the largest increase will affect the largest users, to help prevent waste.  Even with this rate increase, the rates are still lower here than when I was in PA and they have had several rate increases since I left.

Posted by Roberta LaRocca, REALTOR®, Broker, Salesperson, NV. Lic BS.507 (Simply Vegas Real Estate) over 12 years ago

I love how detailed your report is and thanks for the link to the global cooling that was predicted in the 70's I've been telling people for years that was the prediction and they call me a liar! If you notice, it is some of the same people that said that in the 70's that are now saying global warming now. It is like they love the TV time and have nothing better to do with their time. I think we would have a lot less global warming if they would stop spewing out all that hot air!

Posted by Respect Realty LLC, Brokers - Oregon / SW Washington Real Estate (Respect Realty LLC) over 12 years ago

Todd: Yes, it seems a little crazy. Temperatures have gone up, but there have been heating and cooling periods long before the industrial age. Prehistoric earth started out tropical, and the Las Vegas valley is now a desert, and was once an ancient sea floor. Something changed along the way.  

More recent history, 1000 A.D. there was the Medieval Warming Period followed by the Little Ice Age around the 1600's. Not exactly a time of cars, industry, power plants, CFC's and other man made chemicals. If you look on that temperature chart from the cooling prediction link, temperatures dropped post WWII, during the days of the Baby Boom growth, industrialization, and those gas guzzlers. Since then we've cleaned up our act, and temperatures went up in spite of it. 

I think we can use technology to adapt to what Mother Nature throws at us, but not the other way around. Coming from the former "Smokey City" of Pittsburgh, I do appreciate the cleaner air and water from being environmentally responsible, but it seems like warming has become more about generating fear for a money grab.

Posted by Roberta LaRocca, REALTOR®, Broker, Salesperson, NV. Lic BS.507 (Simply Vegas Real Estate) over 12 years ago


Very true. You are right on. I am sure we will see some major water projects across the nation in the next decade similar to the Arizona Water Project of the 1970's

Posted by Alan Kirkpatrick, Alan in Austin (Austin Texas Homes) over 12 years ago
Alan:  I'm sure there will be some changes all across the country.
Posted by Roberta LaRocca, REALTOR®, Broker, Salesperson, NV. Lic BS.507 (Simply Vegas Real Estate) over 12 years ago