LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The speedboat at Government Wash now has a buoy and flag attached to warn Lake Mead boaters of a potential hazard — the latest chapter in a story 8 News Now brought to the public’s attention in May of 2022.
“Hope we don’t see her again anytime soon. Now she’s marked. Awesome,” Brittney Swindle Beale posted on Facebook after taking the photo on Saturday, Sept. 16.
What’s more likely is we’ll still see her bow poking above the surface, and the water will start to drop a little until December. That’s what the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s 24-Month Study, released Sept. 15, would suggest.
She might disappear from view sometime around mid-January. That’s all assuming that 24-Month Study is accurate. The study is updated monthly based on “most probable inflow” projections for Lake Mead.
Here are some photos of the “vertical speedboat” or the “Lake Mead Monolith” from various stages of changes in the lake’s water level:
Best guess as to when we could see her again after that? Reclamation predicts a short wait because Lake Mead is projected to drop 5 feet (from 1,068.00 down to 1,063.30) from the end of March to the end of April next year.
We don’t know precisely how big that buoy is, so our best guess is the very tip of the speedboat’s rail is somewhere around 1,067.50 feet above sea level.
If we’ve learned anything over the past years, predicting what will happen is a difficult proposition. After a terrific year for snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin (160% of normal), the lake is about 25 feet above its lowest point — 1,041.71 feet on July 27, 2022.
All indications are the past winter was an exception in the 23-year drought. But there are forecasts that predict another wet winter due to El Niño conditions. Whether that means snow in the Rocky Mountains … well, we’ll cover that story as it unfolds. A new water year begins Oct. 1.
Here’s a look at current levels at Lake Mead (first graphic) and Lake Powell (second graphic).
The steep climb back to 34% full at Lake Mead began in early April. At the end of that month, a “high-flow experiment” released extra water from Lake Powell, which flowed down through the Grand Canyon and increased the level at Lake Mead by about 2 1/2 feet in just a few days.
Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., leveled off early this month, breaking above the 1,066.50 for an hour occasionally over the past week, but staying within a few inches of the level it reached two weeks ago.
At Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir in the U.S., operations changed around July 8 after three months of heavy spring inflow on the Colorado River. Currently, the level has actually increased slightly.
Wet weather that suppressed demand for water — and electricity — allowed Reclamation to hold back extra water over the past month at both reservoirs.