Lost recreation area: A man looks out over the Lake Mead Marina - boat trips are hardly possible anymore
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
It's a macabre attraction.
"Where there are corpses, there is also treasure," quotes the Washington Post as special education teacher and National Guardsman Shawn Rosen.
The reporter met Rosen on a boat tour with his friend Matt Blanchard on Lake Mead, Nevada - what remains of North America's largest reservoir.
The water level has fallen to a record low of 28 percent of capacity, according to the report, exposing what has been under water for decades: sunken boats, old arrowheads, lots of rubbish, but also human remains.
At least one body found in a barrel in May is believed to be the victim of a mafia murder in the 1970s or 1980s.
"Everyone wants to find barrels now," Rosen told the Post, for the prospect of jewels.
Legend has it that Las Vegas godfather Bugsy Siegel hid his treasures in barrels at the bottom of the lake.
According to the newspaper, such rumors have triggered a kind of gold rush.
Treasure hunters who get stuck in the mud with their off-road vehicles have to be freed again and again.
Authorities regularly warned people illegally hunting with metal detectors or powerful magnets.
"Whoever killed the person in the barrel and then dumped it couldn't be an expert on climate change," said Geoff Schumacher of the Mob Museum in nearby Las Vegas.
After 23 consecutive years of drought in the American Southwest, the lake reveals the secrets of the underworld.
But the concerns of the Mafiosi should still be the least.
Supplying the entire region with electricity and water for 25 million people depends on Lake Mead.
The concrete towers, in which the drinking water is tapped from the lake, already tower high over the shore instead of being partially submerged.
The water pipes and driveways have to be lengthened again and again on the bottom of the lake in order to reach the more withdrawn shoreline.
This year alone, the water level has fallen more than six meters, which has set the shore back more than 100 meters in shallower places.
An official said the water is not gradually receding this year like in the already dry previous years.
"It leaks, it falls, it falls."
One reason for the accelerated decline: Upstream on the Colorado River, more water is being held back to at least save Lake Powell reservoir there.
But the cause is the changed climate in the desert region, which is becoming even drier and warmer, with less snow in the mountains that feed the Colorado.
Lake Mead is particularly hard hit now.
The hydroelectric power plant at Hoover Dam, which blocks the lake, has already had to reduce its output by 13 percent.
The city of Las Vegas uses video patrols to hunt down water wasters who are still planting banned natural grass.
However, the US government warns that the entire river basin is facing an unprecedented crisis.
A Senate hearing in June said water abstraction from Lakes Mead and Powell may need to be cut by 2.5 to 5 trillion liters in the coming year.
The total consumption of the states of California, Arizona and Nevada from the Colorado amounted to around 8.5 trillion liters last year.
The water would be particularly scarce in the agricultural region downstream, which accounts for about a quarter of the fruit and vegetable cultivation in the USA.