More human remains have been found at Lake Mead as the waters of the drought-stricken reservoir recede even further.
The latest body is the fourth set of human remains to be found on the shore of Lake Mead since May, when a body with gunshot wounds was discovered stuffed in a barrel.
Lake Mead is a manmade reservoir created by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Over a decade of near-constant drought due to human-caused climate change has depleted this vital source of water for the southwestern states of the U.S.
When the first set of human remains was discovered on Mead’s parched shores, authorities warned that more bodies were likely to follow as water levels continued to recede — and they were right.
At around 11 a.m. on Saturday, park rangers were called to the reservoir, which sits between Nevada and Arizona, after skeletal remains were found at Swim Beach.
Rangers and a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police dive team went to retrieve the remains.
National Park Service officials said the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office will try to determine when and how the person died as investigators review records of missing people.
CNN reported that the homicide division of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police is not currently working on this case, but they are investigating the first set of remains that washed up in a barrel on May 1.
“Any time you have a body in a barrel, clearly there was somebody else involved,” Lt. Jason Johansson told CNN.
The body has been dubbed the Hemenway Harbor Doe by the coroner’s office because of where the remains were found. Police believe the victim was a man who died in the mid-1970s to early 1980s.
Less than a week after Hemenway Harbor Doe was found, another set of skeletal remains were found at Calville Bay.
The third body was found on July 25, when a partial skeleton was discovered at Boulder Beach.
Given Lake Mead’s proximity to Las Vegas, the discovery of these bodies has prompted theories that they may have been the victims of mob hits carried out during the early development of the casino town, which is only a 30-minute drive from the lake.
The National Park Service, though, believes one explanation for the bodies is accidental drowning, as Lake Mead is a major national recreation site, the first such site to be created in the U.S., in fact.
Since the reservoir was full in 1983, the lake’s surface has dropped more than 170 feet, leaving a white “bathtub ring” on the rocks surrounding the lake as it recedes.
In July, Lake Mead’s surface elevation dipped to the lowest it has been since the lake was filled in the 1930s: 1,040.92 feet.
The water level is so low that the reservoir is now considered an “inactive pool” by the Bureau of Reclamation, which warns that the Hoover Dam will stop being able to generate electricity if the reservoir dips below 950 feet in elevation.
At 895 feet in elevation, Lake Mead will be considered a “dead pool.”
Demand for water from the depleted Lake Mead has only increased in recent years as its water level recedes. The Colorado River is responsible for the water needs of an estimated 33 million people in the southwestern U.S.
The U.S. government responded to the water crisis in the area last year by announcing water cuts for the states that use the Colorado.
— With files from The Associated Press
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