Three Scenarios Predicted for Lake Mead Water Levels

The Bureau of Reclamation has forecasted three potential scenarios for the water levels of Lake Mead during the upcoming summer.

As of May 8, the water levels of Lake Mead are currently at 1,050.71 feet.

According to the April 2023 Maximum Probable Inflow 24 month report, the reservoir experiencing drought is essentially an ideal situation for the water levels of Lake Mead, as they may potentially increase to 1,060.30 feet by the conclusion of July 2023.

By the conclusion of July 2023, the Bureau has additionally published “most likely” inflow forecasts, which are more probable, yet still anticipate an increase to 1,057.68 feet.

A stock photo shows Lake Mead and its bathtub rings. The bathtub rings represent where the water used to be. bloodua/Getty

The previous year, these figures would depict an entirely distinct scenario if accurate. Lake Mead witnessed some of its most minimal water depths ever by the conclusion of July 2022. The lake reached approximately 1,040 feet, which was a consequence of the exceedingly arid circumstances in the Western U.S. Caused by the megadrought enveloping the area.

In the most unfavorable situation, the water levels of Lake Mead will reach approximately 1,050 feet by the conclusion of July 2023.

Southwest United States provides essential water for agriculture and drinking to approximately 25 million people. Mead Lake, lying on the Nevada-Arizona border, serves as the largest reservoir in the country. It was constructed in the 1930s by the Hoover Dam, forming a reservoir of the Colorado River.

The higher water levels are a result of a very high level of snowpack, accumulated through months of winter storms and rain.

As the temperature begins to rise during the spring season, the accumulated snow will thaw, resulting in above-average water currents.

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A graph shows the three scenarios for Lake Mead’s water levels over the next year, and into 2024. Bureau of Reclamation

During the end of April, a High Flow Experiment (HFE) took place where the Glen Canyon Dam released up to 39,500 cubic feet per second of water over a span of three days. The Bureau of Reclamation has already put in place a program to assist in the management of these water flows.

This was done to assist in restoring sandbars and shorelines, as well as transporting sediment downstream, all the way to Lake Mead.

With the rise in temperature, there is a possibility of flooding in the nearby regions, even though the substantial amounts of snow accumulation will undoubtedly aid in refilling the reservoirs in the Western region.

As per the Bureau of Reclamation, the water levels of Lake Mead would remain below its “usual state” in July, although it might return to customary levels by 2024. Even in the most optimistic situation, Lake Mead and Lake Powell will still be relatively depleted.

According to hydrologist Paul Miller from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, Powell’s levels will remain relatively low, even if water levels rise.

He informed the media, “At Powell, individuals discuss the waterline mark that will still remain visible.”

Impacted by prolonged drought, the water that was once visible along the shorelines indicated the presence of “bathtub rings” at both Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

What’s scary is that it’s happening faster than we expected. Researchers have been predicting this disaster for decades based on climate models. The long-term outlook is not good, but we’re definitely hoping for a good run of years. It’s a good thing that Powell and Mead Lake and Lake are refilling with above-average snowfall, which is about 120 percent of normal snowpack statewide in Colorado, as previously told by Tom Corringham, a research economist at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

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