LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Figuring out where the Colorado River’s water goes after Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam can be challenging to understand and is often incorrectly stated. So when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) published forecasted use of Colorado River water it is essential to analyze the numbers.

According to the USBR, the forecasted use for 2023 in the lower Colorado River basin is divided four ways: Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico.

The USBR forecasts California will use 52% of the available water, Arizona will use 27.5%, Mexico will use 16.6%, and Nevada will only use 2.6%. This is in line with recent years’ water use.


In California - which will use more than half of the available water this year - the largest user will be the Imperial Irrigation District. This district alone is forecast to use 11 and a half times more than what Southern Nevada will use in 2023.

The USBR has forecast that the Imperial Irrigation District, Palo Verde Irrigation District, and Coachella Valley Water District - all of which are mainly agricultural districts - will use just over 76% of California's forecast water in 2023.


The largest usage of Colorado River water forecast to be used in Arizona is by the Central Arizona Project. This water system provides water to Phoenix and Tucson along with all of Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima Counties.

Central Arizona Project is forecast to use 48.2% of all the river water flowing into the state in 2023. The next largest user is forecast to be the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Arizona followed by the Yuma County Water Users' Association.


Nevada's Colorado River water use is dominated by the Las Vegas valley. The Robert B. Griffith Water Project (formerly Southern Nevada Water Project) is the water system managed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). This uses more than 95% of the state's allocated, and forecast, river water.

Lake Mead prediction for 2023

The current prediction for water levels at Lake Mead show by the end of September, Lake Mead is expected to be nearly 20 feet below its current level. As of Feb. 6, 2023, Lake Mead is 1,046.95 feet above sea level.

Lake Mead, which ended the year at 1,044.82 feet, will be down to 1,025.71 feet — a drop of 19.11 feet — according to the operational plan for Hoover Dam, contained in the January 2023 24-Month Study. By the end of December next year, projections indicate the lake will rise to 1,026.91 feet.