Water Wars: Southwestern United States Running out of Water

A new study from NASA and the University of California suggests the entire Southwestern United States may be in for some major trouble in the very near future.

Picture of Lake Mead's falling water level

Over the last decade, much of the water that the Southwest depends on has been depleted to levels that may soon cripple the entire region

This month Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, dropped to its lowest level since it was filled after the completion of the Hoover Dam in the 1930’s. In fact, it’s getting so bad that the lake is now dropping at a rate of one foot a week.

Historic Drought & Unrelenting Migration of People Could Spell Disaster

The entire southwest region of the United States, most of which is a desert to begin with, is in the middle of a historic 14-year drought. The extreme drought conditions, combined with an unrelenting migration of people into areas that were never meant to sustain this much development, have caused water levels in Lake Mead to drop over 130 feet since the year 2000.

Lake Mead water level
10 years ago almost everything in this picture would have been under water. Just 2 months ago, the truck in this picture would have been 10 feet under water.

Lake Mead provides fresh drinking water to over 20 million people in southern Nevada, southern California and Arizona. Things are so out of control that the two intake pipes that provide water to Nevada could soon be above water, which has local water officials rushing to build a third emergency intake pipe. Without these water intake pipes, Las Vegas would not exist.

But even if the third intake pipe is built on time, the trouble is far from over. Once the lake falls below the two existing pipes something else happens: The power starts to go out in Las Vegas. When Lake Mead falls below 1,050 feet, the Hoover Dam’s turbines shut down. When that happens, its lights out for Las Vegas.

Water Crisis worse than thought: Entire Colorado River Basin in Major Trouble

According to a joint study carried out by NASA and the University of California, the problems at Lake Mead may actually pale in comparison to what’s going on in the Colorado River Basin, the river that feeds Lake Mead and provides water to 40 million people in seven states.

Over the last nine years the Colorado River Basin has lost almost twice as much water as Lake Mead. Even more troubling, is what scientists think is happening to the ground water.


“We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out,” said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine.

“This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”

If drastic steps aren’t taken soon, the entire Southwestern United States is going to be in some serious trouble, which will affect the entire country.

Most people think water shortages only occur in distant third world countries, but very soon this may be a reality for much of the Southwestern United States. Given how we manage the Colorado River today, the entire region faces a significant risk of shortage.

If Lake Mead runs dry, it will be the end of places like Las Vegas and many other desert cities. But the problems will not be limited just to Las Vegas, or even the Southwestern United States. If Lake Mead runs dry, it will be a catastrophic disaster for that entire the country.

From a major loss of electricity when the Hoover Dam Turbines shut down to farmland that will quickly turn back into a desert landscape, everyone is going to feel it. Much of this water goes to irrigating around four million acres of farmland that cannot exist without it. Once it starts hitting the farms in California, the rest of the country is going to feel it – not to mention the chaos caused by a flood of people what will inevitably have to start migrating back east.


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    • Vegas is really not the problem. They probably have way too many people and it is no doubt unsustainable but over 90% of the water there is reused. The real problem in California and their unsustainable population and agricultural processes. Most of California is a desert, but they somehow think they can farm whatever they want out there win out consequences.

      Someone needs to tell them about the dust bowl.

      • Hate to tell you Bo but most of California is NOT a desert only the southern portion, Northern Cali has tons of forest and mountains and also lots of water. The problem is we ship it to southern Californa

        • Most of northern California is considered high desert. All of southern California is desert. California IS the problem (per usual).

          • Hey Hombre, sell it back to Mexico. We’ll give you 25 cents on the dollar of what you paid for it my friend.

  1. San Diego is working on a desalination plant, although I think it won’t be done for another year or two. Other areas should consider it too.

  2. If you think the price of food is high now, just wait until the water completely runs out…it will sky-rocket.

  3. food cost will be bad enough, but all them people will want to move somewhere else,,only hope its out of the country.
    i know that sounds harsh, but if all those people move east the same thing will happen.
    as far as vegas,,,who cares?
    other than avacados i cant think of a thing i buy from from the evil state.

    • Las vegas doesnt produce any agriculture crops. Las vegas brings in billions if dollars from other cintries and so your comments about vegas is unfounded. I just wanted to set the record straight.

      • vegas is an amusement park for water. think about and read HOW MANY MILLIONS OF GALLONS are there for show. its true. i realize that it is a big part of an employment, vacation, economy resort town, but now we are talkin about life and death basically. then of course you add all of the newcomers to the mix…… just sayin.

        • The water that the casinos use is on their property and is UNDRINKABLE. The casinos use less than 5% of the water. The problem is not the 2 million people in Las Vegas, but rather the 20+ million people in the Los Angeles basin and in Arizona..

      • the evil state that i was referring to is cali, not the home of legalized gambleing, whoreing and just about anything else that desttoys american values and homes.
        suebee,,,good post.

    • If you are talking about buying produce it does not come from Vegas. If you mean California I would pretty much guarantee you buy more than avocados as Cali produces aprox 50-80% of the produce for the whole country and 90% of a lot of things like almonds and other nuts

  4. No sympathy. That’s what happens in the desert. Never thought I’d be so glad to live next to stinky Lake Michigan

    • “Stinky lake Michigan”? You must be from Illinois. In northern Michigan the lakes are far from stinky. But then what do you expect from a FIB?

      What’s a “FIB”? It’s what the people of Michigan and Wisconsin call those from Illinois and Indiana.

      • My name includes the area code for Milwaukee. And standing at the mueseum with the milorganite plant 2 miles to the right, and the Bradford beach and the dead alewives to you’re left. Not the most pleasant of smells .

  5. In an AP report today, ( look it up) theground water is even depleted.Depleted more than they ever thought! They said it was “shocking” to view from NASA satellites the dreadful circumstances they saw.
    And replenishing this water is not to be anytime soon.
    Look out! I think we are headed for some real trouble.

  6. Of the power generated by the Hoover Dam only 5% is sent to Las Vegas. The remaining 95% goes to California and Arizona. Las Vegas gets it’s power from generating plants that run on fossil fuels as well as a solar installation. The rest of the article is factual.

  7. I can see it now – people so desperate they’ll be stealing water from their neighbor’s swimming pools!

  8. No need for the victims & vermin of said drought to find their way back East- there isn’t much here for them let alone for those of us who have spent our lives here. Since I was a kid, thousands and thousands of acres of rich farmland have been converted into housing developments and businesses to help support a consumer driven economy. The greater majority of any type of heavy industry has been moved over seas or down south where wages are lower. About the best you can hope for without a formal education is an entry level position in a retirement home cleaning patients or as a line cook for the many burger chains. And last but not least, we’re in the middle of a heroin and crystal meth epidemic the likes of which we have never known before. Yes, it’s a free country and all of that- God bless you. But a whole ton of people flooding into areas like this is nothing short of trying to stuff 10 pounds of powder in a 5 pound gun. We can all theorize how this is going to work out.

  9. Yes lake mead us low however the artical is flawed. The water intakes are still hundreds of feet deep. That is where the cleaner water is. Secondly, vegas is inly allocated less than 1% if thw electricity that the dam makes. California bought out those eights with under the table dwalings shortly after the dam was completed. Vegas has only 1 million people at best and the casinos have found ways to recycle and reclaim there water to a sciencw. 3rd, lake powel and lake mohave are quit full and the dam has released more water to california than its allotment for years. I dont see the problems you talk about for another 6 years and that would depend on the drought continueing and calufornia still getting all the water they want. The de-salinization plant will barely make a dent in californias water needs.

    • After reading the article and then googling and doing some research, I see that Nevada could get as much as 23% of the power from the Hoover Dam. I have taken the Damn(Pun intended)tour several times in the previous years and I know that I was told the number was actually quit small, however, The info you state in this article could be spot on based on what is currently being spoken of on the internet. My apologies for calling you out on the info and I hope that the info out there is just a scare tactic to get us worried that the sky is falling.

  10. As I write, I sit in a motel w/ a large uhaul, all belongings, my family, 2 dogs, and my preps. Enroute to Montana, from new mexico. 3 years ago this transition started. My advice is buy land where there is water.

  11. If the water issues is so bad, why is it that SOCAL still allows the suburbanites to water their lawns every single day? When I lived in Temecula, the rental agreement said that I had to water the lawn daily – and the entire neighborhood watered twice a day… Ridiculous…

  12. I have 406 acres of land for sale with a year round creek running through it fed by springs. No water problems here. Anybody interested?

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