Vice President Kamala Harris visited Nevada Monday to promote President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill and its provisions for combating climate change in front of one of the most dramatic examples of the changing climate in the West: Lake Mead.
The Colorado River reservoir created by Hoover Dam provides water for about 25 million people in the West. It is the largest reservoir in the U.S. by volume, according to the National Park Service, but it hasn’t been full since 2000.
“Just look out at this lake, look at where the water has receded over just the last 20 years,” Harris said during her remarks, which were livestreamed, while pointing to Lake Mead’s “bathtub ring” showing the past high water mark. “That space is larger than the height of the Statue of Liberty.”
Water levels at Lake Mead fell this year to their lowest point since the reservoir was created in the 1930s, and in August, the U.S. government declared the first ever water shortage on the Colorado River.
“When we look at what’s happening here, we know this is about this lake, but it is about a region and it is about our nation,” Harris said.
Harris said Biden’s agenda was “thoughtful and foresightful,” and that along with the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill currently in Congress, would make investments “in things like water recycling and reuse, what we can do in terms of water desalination, what we can do in terms of implementation of drought contingency plans.”
“This is about thinking ahead, recognizing where we are and where we’re headed,” Harris said.
While Lake Mead is a stark example of climate change, it’s one of several Americans in the West are experiencing.
About half of all adults in western states said they’ve seen extreme weather events happening more often in their region, according to a Pew Research survey released Thursday. Currently, 90% of the West is in a drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and wildfires in California this year surpassed 4 million acres burned earlier this month, a record. The only regions with higher percentages of residents saying they’ve noticed extreme weather events on the rise were the West South Central region, which includes Texas and Louisiana which have been ravaged by hurricanes, and the Middle Atlantic.
Pew found wide support for the federal government to take action when it comes to building systems to make wastewater reusable in dry regions, with 88% of U.S. adults saying it is very or somewhat important. But there was a sharp partisan divide. The poll found 64% of Democrats support the federal government taking action, compared with 36% of Republicans.
Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill is currently stalled in Congress as moderate and progressive Democrats hash out details over its final price tag. In Nevada, Democratic incumbents are getting support from television ads thanking them for backing the legislation from the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group.