Lake Mead’s water levels appear to be trending down again as summer comes to a close.
As of October 6, the reservoir’s water levels stood at 1,065.71 feet. This is a slight downturn from the middle of September when levels stood at 1066.46 feet.
Lake Mead borders Arizona and Nevada and is the largest man-made lake in the U.S. It is an integral water source and provides water for around 25 million people living in the Colorado River Basin. When the lake is full, it holds around 31 million acre-feet of water. But this has not been the case for a long time.
There are serious concerns around the lake as its water levels continue to decline amid severe drought conditions in the region. As of now, the lake is only around 30 percent full.
“Water levels in Lake Mead vary seasonally,” Jennifer Pitt, National Audubon Society’s Colorado River Program Director told Newsweek. “It’s most important to keep an eye on the change year over year for both Lakes Mead and Powell, which is indicative of whether the Colorado River water supply is increasing, decreasing, or stable. Both reservoirs are projected to have more water in them at the end of 2023 than they did at the end of 2022, thanks to a very wet winter of 2022-2023.”
At the beginning of this year, Lake Mead’s water levels were incredibly low, at around 1044 feet. It fluctuated slightly over the spring months until May when levels shot up.
The reservoir has seen recent seasonal rains from Hurricane Hilary; however, most of this water replenishment comes from snowmelt in the upper Colorado basin, which has been above average this year.
“Lake Mead levels are up since March, which is a good thing,” Tom Corringham, a research economist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego previously told Newsweek. “Most of the water in the Colorado River is from the upper basin. This has led to more water being released from Lake Powell which refills Lake Mead,” Corringham said.
The above-average snowpack comes from a particular wet year. Although the southwest has been in a drought for years, the region was battered with rain and snow storms throughout the winter and early Spring.
While this has been a welcome source of replenishment for the lake this year, it is unlikely to do much good in the long run.
For the water crisis to fully go away, the region would need years of above-average rainfall.
Scientists believe climate change is the main culprit for the prolonged drought. A change in weather patterns, paired with an overconsumption of water, has meant that Lake Mead’s resources are being used more quickly than they are being replenished.
“We can hope for more snow in years to come, or we can reduce our consumption. Reducing water use is a proactive step we can take, and one we should continue to take in the coming years,” Corringham said.
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