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Human remains were discovered in a barrel over the weekend at the bottom of Nevada’s drought-stricken Lake Mead, according to officials.
The gruesome discovery came as water levels at the lake have reached their lowest levels in more than half a century. The reservoir’s original water intake valve was exposed for the time a few days ago, rendering pump stations inoperable.
Boaters spotted the barrel on the newly exposed bottom of Lake Mead Sunday afternoon. National Park Service rangers searched an area near the lake’s Hemenway Harbor and found the barrel containing skeletal remains.
Officials predicted the discovery could be just the first of more grim finds.
“I would say there is a very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains,” Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Spencer told KLAS-TV on Monday.
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Personal items found inside the barrel indicated the person died more than 40 years ago in the 1980s, Spencer said. He declined to discuss a cause of death and declined to describe the items found, saying the investigation is ongoing.
Police plan to reach out to experts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to analyze when the barrel started eroding. The Clark County coroner’s office will try to determine the person’s identity.
Fox News has reached out to the National Park Service for more details but did not hear back before press time.
The reservoir on the Colorado River behind Hoover Dam has become so depleted that Las Vegas is now pumping water from deeper within Lake Mead, which also stretches into Arizona.
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Lake Mead and Lake Powell upstream are the largest human-made reservoirs in the U.S., part of a system that provides water to more than 40 million people, tribes, agriculture and industry in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and across the southern border in Mexico.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.