One family’s struggle with a drying Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir

A man looks out on the Marina in Lake Mead, Nevada. (Photo by Charlotte Weiner/GroundTruth)

LAKE MEAD, Nevada – Twenty five million Americans rely on a water source that is slowly drying up.

Lake Mead — America’s largest reservoir — provides irrigation, industrial and drinking water for much of the southwest. But after years of drought and decades of overconsumption, Mead has dropped to its lowest ever level. A 147-foot “bathtub ring” marks where the lake once rose. If the water does not rise three feet higher than its current levels by the end of this year, mandatory water restrictions will go into effect in Arizona, Nevada and California.

But more immediately, a family whose livelihood depends on Mead is already feeling the impact of the lake’s dropping levels.

The Gripentog family purchased a marina on Lake Mead in 1957. Now, three generations of the family – 19 family members in all – work at the marinas they own. Erin Charleston is a third-generation Gripentog. Inside the Las Vegas Boat Harbor and Marina, Charleston marks the current water level at Mead. At 37 percent of its full pool, Mead is the lowest it has ever been.