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Lower water levels at Lake Mead mean less electricity from Hoover Dam

HOOVER DAM GENERATOR OPENING
Posted at 3:44 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 18:44:49-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Lake Mead's reservoir is at a historically low level and as a result, Hoover Dam is generating less electricity.

The dam is home to one of the largest hydropower plants in the country, supplying power to around 1.3 million people in Nevada, Arizona and California, including tribal communities in the region.

RELATED: Lake Mead levels to drop to lowest capacity since 1930s

A few weeks ago, Lake Mead reached its lowest water level since the 1930s, and federal authorities are expected to declare a water shortage next year if elevation is at or below 1,075 feet by the end of 2021.

As of Tuesday, the elevation was 1,067 feet.

In the meantime, Patti Aaron with the Bureau of Reclamation says the Hoover Dam's hydropower efficiency has dropped about 25% due to the historically low levels.

MINIMUM WATER LEVEL FOR POWER

The hydropower plant will continue generating power until Lake Mead's water level hits 950 feet, a level we are not in danger of hitting at the moment, Aaron says.

Last week, the bureau shared new projections related to the drought. The agency says Lake Mead has an increased likelihood of hitting 1,025 and 1,000 feet by 2025, estimating the chances at 58% and 21%.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR NEVADANS

Thankfully, Nevada generates power in several different ways and does not rely solely on hydropower from the Hoover Dam.

In fact, hydropower is the third-largest way the state generates electricity, after natural gas and nonhydroelectric renewables, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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HOOVER DAM ENERGY ALLOCATION

The majority of the energy generated at the Hoover Dam goes to Southern California, with just over 23% allocated to Nevada.

Here's how the energy is distributed, according to the USBR:

  • Arizona - 18.9527%
  • Nevada - 23.3706%
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California - 28.5393%
  • Burbank, CA - 0.5876%
  • Glendale, CA - 1.5874%
  • Pasadena, CA - 1.3629%
  • Los Angeles, CA - 15.4229%
  • Southern California Edison Co. - 5.5377%
  • Azusa, CA - 0.1104%
  • Anaheim, CA - 1.1487%
  • Banning, CA - 0.0442%
  • Colton, CA - 0.0884%
  • Riverside, CA - 0.8615%
  • Vernon, CA - 0.6185%
  • Boulder City, NV - 1.7672%

PLANNING AHEAD

Aaron says the USBR has been working with the Colorado River Basin States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) to plan and prepare for these conditions.

"Agreements and mechanisms are in place to protect Lake Mead from falling to critical levels," she assured.

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