A federal report released last week says near-record snowpack in the Colorado River Basin could raise the elevation of Lake Mead by more than 20 feet by the end of the year, providing a critical opportunity for water agencies to improve long-term management of the river.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s report shows vastly improved hydrological conditions are also expected to raise the water level in Lake Powell by more than 50 feet. California relies heavily on lakes Powell and Mead for water, as do Arizona and Nevada.
In its annual “24-Month Study,” Reclamation addresses changing conditions on the Colorado River and forecasts operations for the river system’s reservoirs for the following two years. The report projects the above-average snowpack will help recharge the Colorado River. Up to 9.5 million acre-feet of water is expected to be released this year from Glen Canyon Dam into Lake Mead, an increase of 2.5 million acre-feet. That water could increase Lake Mead’s water level by more than 20 feet and break years of declines in the reservoir’s levels. Actual water releases into Lake Mead will be adjusted based on the observed inflow in Lake Powell.