NEVADA — There's a white line known as the bathtub ring around Lake Mead.

It's a constant reminder for Boating Lake Mead's Director of Operations, Bruce Nelson.

The lake is at a historically low 1,067-feet above sea level, affecting boat launch ramps and customers.

What You Need To Know

  • The first-ever water shortage was declared on the Colorado River, impacting states' water deliveries in 2022

  • Nevada's Lake Mead is at an all-time low of 1,065 feet above sea level

  • Critical level in Lake Mead would be 950 feet above sea level

  • Lower basin states signed a deal to put water back in Lake Mead amid dropping levels. The agreement, called the “500+ plan,” aims to add 500,000 acre-feet of additional water to Lake Mead in both 2022 and 2023

"Now, they're down to one or two lanes and you might have to wait awhile, and that's problematic for boaters trying to get out and enjoy themselves or get off the lake and go home," Nelson said.

Nelson's grandparents built the family-run marina back in 1957.

But the launch ramps weren't designed for the water's current level.

Now, boaters can wait up to three hours to get in or out of the water.

The National Park Service extends the launch ramps, but Nelson has to keep moving the marina as the water levels drop.

It's a big investment in time and money.

"We have to add power and sewer, and water, and stations, and all these things that nobody sees that have to exist for the marina to be there," Nelson said.

The nation's largest reservoir provides drinking water to 25 million people.

But decades of drought have caused record-low levels, prompting the Bureau of Reclamation to declare its first-ever water shortage for 2022.

This, coupled with a state water shortage leaving water districts without their requested supplies, reflects the dire drought conditions in California.

Lower Colorado Basin Region Public Affairs Officer Patti Aaron said climate change is only exacerbating the water problems of the West.

"Temperatures are higher, and faster than we expected, the soil moisture is extremely low in the Upper Basins," Aaron said.

That means snowmelt seeps into the parched soil rather than running off into the Colorado River and Lake Mead.

In December, the lower basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona came up with a plan to leave more water in Lake Mead.

"Collaboration is key," Aaron said. "The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the Southwest and everybody is working towards a solution as opposed to fighting."

Climate change is creating uncertainty, making it harder to predict snowfall and what Lake Mead will look like in the decades ahead.

So Nelson said to save this water supply for generations to come, it's up to all states who depend on the Colorado River to conserve.

"It would be nice to see the same regulations that are in Las Vegas such as when you water your lawn, how much lawn you're allowed to have, buying back lawn and putting in desert landscaping. It would be nice to see that happen in other states too where you don't see the lowering lake level you just turn your faucet on and water is there," Pellegrino said.

But he said he hopes that water consciousness can be enough to avoid the lake's level from falling further, risking more water cuts, and exposing more of the bathtub ring, an unavoidable truth that the West is drying up.