Lake Mead Reaches Historic Low Water Level

April 27, 2015

lakemeadSea Level rising, drinkable water disappearing as the West’s brutal prolonged drought continues.

Digital Journal:

Lake Mead’s source, the Colorado River has been suffering from a severe 14-year drought. The 79-year-old reservoir, created with the construction of the Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas, is expected to reach a low water level of 1,080 feet today.

The new record low will exceed the 1,080.19 feet reached in August last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Predictions are that by May 1 of this year, the water level in Lake Mead will dip to 1,075 feet, which is well below the record high level of 1,206 feet set in the 1980s,
Long range forecast is not good for Lake Mead

The 1,450 mile long Colorado River meanders through several smaller reservoirs on its way to Lake Mead. But as the river continues to be affected by the current drought, it has lost 45 percent of its capacity, a worrisome amount to lose. Lake Mead supplies water for agriculture and about 40 million people in Nevada, southern California, Arizona and northern Mexico.

The scarcity of snow from the mountains in the “upper basin” region that includes the states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming has been the biggest factor in the lower water levels in the lake. At least 96 percent of Lake Mead’s water comes from melting snow.
The water level in the lake is reaching a critical “trigger point,” and when lake levels drop to a certain point, the federal government will step in and begin rationing water deliveries to Nevada, Arizona and California. The Bureau of Reclamation has already done extensive studies and the forecast is not good. They believe the drought will not be ending anytime soon.

6 Responses to “Lake Mead Reaches Historic Low Water Level”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    ” the water level in Lake Mead will dip to 1,075 feet, ”

    What a crazy way of measuring water level! This “1,075” is not how many feet of water remain in the reservoir – it is a measurement of how high the surface of the remaining water is above sea level.

    Anyone have any idea how many feet of water actually remain?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      The “number of feet” in the lake is an arbitrary number. One answer to how much water remains would be “less than we think because the lake is silting in and isn’t as deep as it was”. The measuring from the top down works because it IS just a base point to work off. They could just as easily put a big ruler on the back of the dam and mark it in any arbitrary units they choose—-it’s the change and trend that matter.

      The level of water that is needed for supplying water to Las Vegas declined to the point that they had to lower the intakes—-one day they will be putting huge straws in the lake.

      You also need a sufficient “head” above the turbines to get the pressure/velocity for optimum electrical generation. Hoover Dam now generates only about 80% of the electricity it used to because of the lower water level. They are replacing the turbines with new ones that are more efficient at lower flow to counteract this. Good article in the WashPost today that addresses this.

  2. rayduray Says:


    The answer to you question is not presented in a straightforward way in the literature.

    There’s a concept called “dead pool”. In the case of Lake Mead this is 895 feet above sea level. That’s the lowest level at which there’s an outlet from the reservoir. However, at that elevation, there would still remain a reservoir of about 3 million acre feet of water up to about 50 feet deep.

  3. neilrieck Says:

    I heard a piece about this last week on NPR where the listeners were told “the water level has fallen dangerously close to the level of the pipes used to extract water for nearby cities”. One idea being considered is a tunnel under lake Mead which will have an opening directly under the center (think bathtub drain). This caught me off guard because it indicated “more of the same” behavior rather than seeking other alternatives like conservation.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “…a tunnel under Lake Mead which will have an opening directly under the center…”

      That’s the “huge straw” I referred to in my earlier comment. Las Vegas is finally seeking “other alternatives like conservation”, but if the drought persists it looks like too little too late. There are just too many people trying to live in a desert.

      (Imagine the sound an 8 foot diameter “straw” will make as it sucks up the last of the water. A Sluuuuuurp that can be heard for miles.)

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