Once-exposed boats in Lake Mead covered by water again, but progress is minimal amid drought

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 7:25 AM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Boats at the bottom of Lake Mead that were exposed by dwindling lake levels are finally underwater again, but the recovery is relatively small compared to the severity of the drought.

In the summer of 2022, folks flocked to a upright boat in Lake Mead. YouTubers “Sin City Outdoors” documented the dramatic fall of lake levels as it dwindled to a historic 1,040 feet. FOX5 covered their efforts to document the numerous boats that emerged from the deep, including a historic WWII vessel.

Adrian Montero, Jr. showed FOX5 the upright boat from late last week: it is completely submerged in water, save for a fishing pole with an American flag to warn boaters of the submerged vessel. The WWII vessel is completely underwater as well, as levels have risen 26 feet to 1,066 feet. The progress is thanks to a wet winter and large releases from Glen Canyon Dam.

“Only the future will tell if it’s going to continue to rise or drop. Obviously, the lake is still way down from where it once was. So I guess it’s just a waiting game,” Montero, Jr. said. “We’re definitely moving forward in a positive way. And I definitely want to see it continue to go that way,” he said.

The lake is 34% full. If it were to reach capacity, water levels would be 1,229 feet.

UCLA scientists explained the impact of climate change: 10 trillion gallons of water have disappeared from the Colorado River from 2001 to 2021-- roughly the size of the capacity of Lake Mead.

“The fact that warming removed as much water from the basin as the size of Lake Mead itself during the recent megadrought is a wakeup call to the climate change impacts we are living today,” said study leader Benjamin Bass in a press release announcement for the study, which appeared in the journal Water Resources Research.

Tough cuts are coming to mitigate water loss: in May, California, Nevada and Arizona agreed to save 1 trillion gallons of water through 2026.

The Bureau of Reclamation is publishing comments for suggestions on how to conserve water past 2026. FOX5 told you about a proposal to drain Lake Powell to fill Lake Mead; even if that proposal was carried out today, water levels throughout the Colorado River system are so depleted, it would only be 70% full.