LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — For months water levels at both Lake Mead and Lake Powell have been falling, causing concern for millions of people who rely on the water for drinking and irrigation. However, there has been some good news out of Lake Powell over the last two months.
The water level for Lake Powell has been on the rise steadily since the end of April. By the beginning of July Lake Powell’s water level had risen almost 20 feet.
THE RECENT RISE AND FALL OF LAKE POWELL
Flaming Gorge Reservoir, located approximately 455 river miles upstream of Lake Powell, was created by the dam blocking the Green River in far northeastern Utah. The Green River merges with the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park, almost 200 miles to the south.
Approximately 500,000 additional acre-feet of water were released from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in late May. According to the Bureau of Reclamation – the agency that oversees the Colorado River Basin and dams within – this release dropped the Flaming Gorge Reservoir by nine feet and helped raise the water level in Lake Powell by almost 20 feet.
However, the additional release from Flaming Gorge has stopped and its water level is dropping again. In turn, Lake Powell’s water level has also begun to fall once again.
Bureau of Reclamation lake level data shows that since July 3 Lake Powell has dropped 2.02 feet in two weeks.
In a good year, the Flaming Gorge and Lake Powell reservoirs could continue to benefit from additional snow melt from the Rockies, leading to water levels staying around the same level until September when levels would traditionally fall again. But it does not appear this cycle of water flow is happening this year.
Another reservoir in the system, the Blue Mesa Reservoir along the Gunnison River in Colorado shows the same pattern of water level drop after a two-month rise. The Gunnison River merges with the Colorado River in Grand Junction, CO.
TRICKLE DOWN EFFECT TO LAKE MEAD
How the changing water levels, dam releases, and ongoing drought affect Lake Mead is still to be seen this year.
Currently, the water level at Lake Mead continues to drop but the rate is much slower than earlier this year. In previous years water levels at Lake Mead begin to recover in mid to late July because of the snow melt flowing downriver.
Looking upriver and seeing water levels at the three major reservoirs above Lake Mead dropping again the outlook might appear to be bad.
However, the Bureau of Reclamation’s 24-month forecast that was just released at the end of last week projects Lake Mead to be at 1,041.10 feet in January 2023. This level is actually .02 feet higher than the current lake level of 1,041.08 on July 20.
The lake is expected to drop roughly 21 feet by this time next year. By July 2023 the lake’s elevation is predicted to fall to 1,019.18 feet.