Lake Mead water falls to unprecedented levels 1:47
(WABNEWS) – The drop in the level of the waters of the lake mead, the country’s largest reservoir, dwarfed by drought, revealed another disturbing discovery this weekend, police say: a body in a barrel. A person who was at the lake on Sunday afternoon found the barrel, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Homicide Lieutenant Ray Spencer. The person was able to see the remains inside, because the barrel was corroded.
Spencer said in a statement Tuesday that investigators believe the person was likely murdered and died of a gunshot wound.RELATED
According to the statement, they are now conducting an investigation and “detectives believe the victim was murdered in the mid-1970s to early 1980s, based on the clothing and footwear in which” the body was found.
Investigators are working to confirm the victim’s identity, which will be released by the Clark County Coroner’s Office.
Some 25 million people in Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico depend on water from Lake Mead, which has been running out at an alarming rate amid a megadrought caused by climate change.
“The lake has drastically drained over the last 15 years,” Spencer said earlier, adding that “other bodies that have been dumped into Lake Mead” are “likely” to be found as the water level drops further.
“They probably dumped the barrel hundreds of feet from the shore back then,” Spencer said, “but now that area is considered the shore.”
Megadrought in three states
As of this Monday, the water level of the lake was about 321 meters above sea level, some 49 meters below its level in 2000, when it was last considered full. It is the lowest recorded level of the reservoir since it was filled in the 1930s.
In August, the federal government declared a unprecedented water shortage into the Colorado River, which feeds the reservoir, causing water supply outages for southwestern states beginning in January.
Last week, the low water level of the lake also exposed for the first time one of the original water inlet valves of the reservoir. The valve has worked since 1971 but can no longer draw water, according to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the agency responsible for managing water resources for 2.2 million people in southern Nevada, including Las Vegas.
Upstream of the Colorado River, levels at Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, have also plummeted and recently became under a limit that threatens not only downstream water supplies, but also hydroelectric power generation for surrounding communities.
Across the West, extreme lack of rainfall has already taken a significant toll this year, with about 91% of the region in some level of drought, according to the US Drought Monitor. Extreme and exceptional drought, the two worst ratings, spread across New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, states in the Colorado River Basin.
WABNEWS’s Stephanie Elam contributed to this story.