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What is dead pool, and what does it mean for the Hoover Dam?

Posted at 8:54 PM, Jun 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-04 19:28:07-04

(KTNV) — To most people, it's a Marvel move anti-hero. But when it comes to Lake Mead, "dead pool" means we've hit the bottom of the basin.

"Dead pool, in any reservoir, refers to essentially when the dam can no longer release water downstream," said Colby Pellegrino with the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

The Hoover Dam creates Lake Mead. Pellegrino says when lake levels at Lake Mead get as low as 895 feet, dead pool will be a reality at the Hoover Dam.

Currently, our lake levels are at 1,047 feet. Pellegrino says dead pool is still far away, but could happen in our lifetime. She says SNWA has been planning for the lowering lake levels — that's why the agency invested $1.3 billion in its third intake and low level pumping station.

"We designed our pumping stations so that there is still water over the top of our pumps, should we ever hit dead pool, so we will physically be able to deliver water to this community," Pellegrino said.

LAKE MEAD: What happens if the water levels drop too low?

SNWA and leaders of six other states — Arizona, California, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and the country of Mexico — are all working together to come up with solutions on how to never hit dead pool. The issues stem from the Colorado River, which currently isn't producing enough water from snow packs or rainfall to flow downstream to Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

"Nevada can't change the river's destiny on its own," she said. "You can completely wipe Nevada off the map, and the river would still have all the problems that it does today."

MORE: The Lake Powell proposal decision is in: Lake Mead will receive less water

Pellegrino says 2021 and 2022 had some of the driest winters on record, adding to the already decades-long drought. As the Colorado River declines, so do the water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

Pellegrino says it's not enough that leaders come up with solutions — residents have to do their part and conserve water.

"We're looking at, every single year, what the next best evolution of our water conservation policy is," she said. "I think there's still a lot of low-hanging fruit in this community in terms of reducing water use."

DROUGHT IMPACT: Drought crisis at Lake Mead now endangering wildlife