Water levels at Lake Mead, the country’s largest reservoir, have dropped, police said, and another disturbing discovery was made over the weekend: bodies in barrels.
The Colorado River irrigates farms, powers the grid and provides drinking water to 40 million people. With his supply dwindling, a crisis looms.
According to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Homicide Lieutenant Ray Spencer, the barrel was discovered Sunday afternoon by a man who was spending time by the lake and was able to see the wreckage inside the barrel. , because it has been corroded.
Spencer said at a news conference on Tuesday that investigators believe the person was likely a murder victim who died from a gunshot wound.
According to the press release, an investigation is ongoing and “based on the discovery of the victim’s clothing and shoes, detectives believe the victim was killed sometime in the mid-1970s to early 1980s.”
“Over the past 15 years, the lake’s water levels have dropped dramatically,” Spencer said previously, noting that “if the water levels continue to drop, we’re likely to find more bodies dumped in Lake Mead.
On Monday, the lake was about 1,054 feet above sea level — about 160 feet below its level in 2000, when it was last considered full. This is the lowest water level recorded in the reservoir since impoundment in the 1930s.
In August, the federal government announced an unprecedented water shortage in the Colorado River, which supplies water to the reservoir, prompting southwestern states to cut water usage starting in January.
Last week, the lake’s low water levels also exposed for the first time an existing inlet valve in the reservoir. According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which manages water for 2.2 million people in southern Nevada, including Las Vegas, the valve has been in operation since 1971 but can no longer draw water.
Upstream of the Colorado River, water levels at Lake Powell, the country’s second-largest reservoir, have also dropped, recently falling below a threshold, threatening not only water supplies downstream, but hydroelectric power in surrounding communities.
This year’s extreme drought in the West has taken its toll, with about 91 percent of the region experiencing some degree of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Extreme and unusual drought, two of the worst names, spread to New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado—all states in the Colorado River Basin.