LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Over the last three weeks Lake Mead’s water level has risen 4.6 feet thanks mainly to extra water being released from Lake Powell beginning on April 24. On the morning of May 17, Lake Mead’s water level appeared to level off but its rise is expected to continue through at least the end of May.
In fact, Lake Mead has actually risen 11.05 feet since hitting a low mark of 1,040.71 feet above sea level on July 27, 2022. Currently, Lake Mead’s water level is at 1,051.76 feet.
Since the beginning of May, Lake Mead has been rising approximately three inches a day, which is great news for people who make a living at the lake and for anyone who boats, fishes, or swims there. However, three inches a day is nothing compared to how fast Lake Powell’s water level is rising.
Thanks to the record snowpack that is melting off the Colorado Rockies, Lake Powell is rising on average just under one foot a day in May. Lake Powell’s water level has risen almost 15 feet in May and more than 20 feet since it dropped to an all-time low on Apr. 13.
Ins and outs of lake levels
According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation the amount of water pouring into Lake Powell – or total inflow – is increasing. Reclamation data shows the large increase in inflow began in mid-April and is on par with the inflow seen during the spring and summer of 1983. This was the last time the Colorado River basin experienced this much snowpack melt, and also the last year Lake Mead’s water level hit ‘full pool,’ meaning the lake was full and water was directed over the spillways at the Hoover Dam.
At the same time as the inflow to Lake Powell is increasing, Reclamation data shows just how much more water is being released through the Glan Canyon Dam and eventually into Lake Mead.
Reclamation conducted a ‘high flow experiment’ (HFE) for 72 hours beginning on April 24. This increased the total release of water from Lake Powell to almost 40,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Before the HFE, the release was between 10-15,000 cfs.
An increased release has continued since the HFE ended which has helped the recent rise in water levels at Lake Mead.
Continuing downriver, Reclamation is also releasing water through the Hoover Dam to supply water customers to the south. Reclamation data shows the amount of water being released in May is actually less than 2022 by around 5,000 cfs depending on the sample date.