How is Las Vegas getting enough water for its expanding population? Most of it comes from Lake Mead on the Colorado River. The Colorado River provides water for Las Vegas, as well as Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Diego. As the populations of all of these cities continue to grow, water demand also increases. However, less snowpack in the mountains in recent years has reduced the river’s flow and thus the amount of water stored in the reservoir.
Landsat images starting in 1972 show the changing water level of the lake. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation records show its highest level was in July 1983, when it was 1,225 feet above sea level. In July 2022, Lake Mead’s water level fell to 1,041 feet. The level hasn’t been this low since the lake began filling in the 1930s. In December 2023, the lake was reported to be 34% full.
The drop in lake level isn’t even as apparent as it might otherwise be because of the steep topography in the region. Lake Mead is inside a canyon environment, so the drastic reduction in lake level does not equate to as drastic of a reduction in surface area, even though the surface area reduction is quite noticeable.