LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Projections used to estimate water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell suggest 2022 could be the year reality sets in, and a water shortage starts to make a much bigger difference in the daily lives of millions in the Southwest U.S.
Lake Powell is of particular concern because there’s a chance dropping water levels could start to reduce the electricity produced at Glen Canyon Dam.
There’s a 25-35% chance of that happening, according to Bureau of Reclamation models.
“The latest outlook for Lake Powell is troubling,” said Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Basin Regional Director Wayne Pullan. “This highlights the importance of continuing to work collaboratively with the Basin States, Tribes and other partners toward solutions.”
A few years beyond that, continued drought could cause serious problems at Lake Mead by 2025.
Officials say there is a 66% chance that Lake Mead could drop to 1,025 feet in 2025 — 42 feet lower than today. That’s the level where the third “intake straw” draws water out of Lake Mead for the Las Vegas valley.
The models show a 22% chance of it going as low as 1,000 feet.
Lake levels are expressed in elevation. A level of 1,000 feet means that the surface of the water is at 1,000 feet above sea level.
Water stored in the Lower Colorado River Basin is currently at 39% of capacity, down from 49% a year ago.
Officials have already taken steps to release water from dams upstream from Lake Powell, including Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa and Navajo.
“This five-year probability table underscores the need for additional actions beyond the 2007 Guidelines and the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan to be taken to enhance our efforts to protect Lake Mead, Lake Powell and the Colorado River system overall,” said Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.