Bureau of Reclamation makes Colorado River water release changes, sending Lake Mead even lower

Lake Mead levels to continue to drop.
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 12:22 PM PDT|Updated: May. 3, 2022 at 4:02 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - The Bureau of Reclamation announced that water releases from the Colorado River will be delayed, sending Lake Mead lower amid an unprecedented shortage.

Lake Powell’s water surface elevation is currently at 3,522 feet, it’s lowest level since it was originally filled in the 1960s. The lowest Lake Powell can get to generate hydropower at Glen Canyon Dam is 3,490 feet.

According to the Bureau, Lake Powell will draw water from a reservoir 450 miles upstream while reducing its annual water release for Lake Mead by 480,000 acre feet. One acre foot is enough water for two households annually.

The U.S. Department of the Interior signed a letter detailing the decision.

Lake Mead is at 1,055 feet right now. If it drops to 1050 feet by August a Tier 2 water shortage will be declared meaning we’ll draw less water from the lake in 2023.

“Even with the reduced water release we will be okay here. Through conservation and the low level pumping station, our community will continue to be well served,” according to Bronson Mack with the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Mack also said that the Lake Powell release could still happen in later this year.

“By working together, water users in Arizona, California and Nevada will continue to make all required shortage reductions and water savings contributions in accordance with the basin’s Drought Contingency Plan and 2007 Interim Guidelines,” said Lower Colorado Regional Director Jaci Gould in a news release. “But given the impacts of climate change, it’s clear that everyone has to do more to protect our reservoirs – and that means using water with maximum efficiency.”

“Today’s decision reflects the truly unprecedented challenges facing the Colorado River Basin and will provide operational certainty for the next year. Everyone who relies on the Colorado River must continue to work together to reduce uses and think of additional proactive measure we can take in the months and years ahead to rebuild our reservoirs,” said Assistant Secretary of Water and Science Tanya Trujillo in a news release. “The Department of the Interior remains committed to addressing the challenges of climate change by using science-based, innovative strategies and working cooperatively with all the diverse communities that rely on the Colorado River. Thankfully, we have additional resources now as a result of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that can aid us in our collective efforts.”