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In this file photo taken on July 19, 2021, a "bathtub ring" is visible at sunset during low water levels the Lake Mead reservoir due to the western drought as seen from the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River at the Nevada and Arizona state border. Image Credit: AFP

Los Angeles: A worsening drought has revealed a four-decade-old body dumped in a US lake, police said Monday, warning that falling water levels would lead to the uncovering of more corpses.

Boaters on Lake Mead near Las Vegas discovered a corroded barrel with its sinister contents during a weekend pleasure trip.

Detectives probing the mystery say the contents of the container point to its having been in the huge reservoir since the 1980s.

“It’s going to be a very difficult case” to solve, Las Vegas Metro police officer Ray Spencer told the local 8newsnow.com, without giving details about what was inside the barrel.

“I would say there is a very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains.”

Nearby Las Vegas has historically been a hive of mob-related villainy, with Mafiosi commonly believed to dispose of the bodies of their enemies in deep water.

A historic drought that is gripping much of the western United States is putting a strain on water sources, with reservoirs and lakes dropping to unprecedently low levels.

Lake Mead, which is fed by the Colorado River after it has passed through the Grand Canyon, is the largest manmade reservoir in the United States.

It was created in the 1930s with the construction of the Hoover Dam and supplies drinking water to 25 million people.

But its current level, at just 321 metres, is its lowest since 1937.

Water authorities last month said intake valves — the pipes that take water to be cleaned for human use — were now visible, a worrying indicator of the health of the reservoir.

Scientists say the decades-long megadrought in the western US is being exacerbated by human-made global warming.

The unchecked burning of fossil fuels has caused our planet to warm, changing weather patterns and sparking violent storms in some areas while others bake in painful droughts.