Gambling Mecca set to run dry by 2021 - Saturday 16th of February 2008

LAKE Mead, the prime source of water for the desert city of Las Vegas, may run dry in 13 years if usage is not cut back, a new study shows.

The finding, released today, is the latest warning about water woes threatening the future of the fast-growing US casino capital and comes amid a sustained drought in the American West.

The study by two researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, calculates a 10 per cent chance that Lake Mead will run dry in six years and a 50 per cent probability it will be gone by 2021 in the absence of other changes.

"Our reaction was frankly one of being stunned," said study co-author Tim Barnett, a marine research physicist.

"We had not expected the problem to be so severe and so up close to us in time."

Climate change - both man-made and natural variation - strong human demand and evaporation are all factors affecting water in the lake.

"The biggest change right now is taking more water from the bucket than we are putting into it," Mr Barnett said.

The uncertainty about when and if the lake would run dry stemmed from the natural fluctuations of the Colorado River, the researcher said.

The West has suffered years of drought with the Colorado supplying less water to Lake Mead, which serves Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico.

The lake created by Hoover Dam provides 90 per cent of Las Vegas water and is less than half full.

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