Lake Mead’s water levels have risen slightly as the record snowpack in the southwest continues to melt.
As of June 5, the Colorado River reservoir in Nevada stood at 1,054.42 feet.
The lake has risen sharply since the end of April when the Bureau of Reclamation released a vast amount of water from Lake Powell. The water ran through the Grand Canyon and eventually into Lake Mead, replenishing sandbars and beaches.
At the end of April, Lake Mead’s water levels stood at 1,047 feet.
The reservoir’s water levels are now slightly higher than they were this time last year. In fact, the lake’s water levels started to drastically decline this time last year, as warm weather struck the region.
On June 1, 2022, water levels stood at 1,047.54. From then on, the lake continued to dry up. It then reached its lowest point ever since it was first constructed in the 1930s, at 1,040 feet.
However, despite this year’s welcome relief for the drought-stricken reservoirs, water shortages in the Colorado River basin states could still be on the way.
Jennifer Pitt, Colorado River Program Director for the National Audubon Society, told Newsweek: “This past winter, Mother Nature provided some relief for the Colorado River with bountiful snowpack in the Southern Rocky Mountains. This summer, as snowmelt finds its way into reservoirs, Lake Powell is expected to rise 65 feet and Lake Mead is expected to rise 10-15 feet.”
“This significantly reduces the risk that these reservoirs could reach a ‘dead pool’ status (when water levels are so low that it can’t flow downstream) in the near term. That’s great news for farmers, cities, and every living thing that depends on the Colorado River’s water. Soon, all eyes will be on the federal government’s 24-month study in August that is used to set Colorado River operating conditions for next year. Most likely, shortages will still be required for Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico, but they will be smaller than in 2023 thanks to both the snow and the voluntary, short-term water use reductions recently proposed by Arizona, California, and Nevada.”
Lake Mead has been drying up in recent years due to the ongoing megadrought gripping the southwestern U.S.
The reservoir provides water for around 25 million people living in the Colorado River basin states.
But the extremely dry conditions, paired with the overconsumption of water, have meant that the lake’s resources are disappearing more quickly than they can be replenished.
The recent influx of water is due to a particularly wet winter season seen across the Southwest, California in particular. The region was battered by extreme storms, which accumulated a record amount of snowpack in the surrounding mountains.
However, experts believe the slight rise in water levels will only be a short-term solution.
The fear is that another dry period will cause the lake’s water levels to keep plummeting. The reservoir, which is formed by the Hoover Dam, also produces hydropower for the surrounding communities.
If the lake reaches ‘dead pool’, which is around 895 feet, water would not flow past the Dam anymore, meaning these operations would likely cease.
“Looking forward, with climate change warming temperatures year-round, the long-term risk to the Colorado River water supply doesn’t change,” Pitt said. “Federal and state governments will be looking to forge the path forward working with water users to find durable water use reductions and investments in climate resilience.”
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