LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Lake Mead’s water level rose almost four feet in April, returning it to the same level it was a year ago. With last year’s extreme water loss still fresh in our memory, this is a positive start to a year that the government thought would see Lake Mead dropping 30 feet.
The melting snowpack in the Colorado Rockies is almost solely to thank for this year’s water level increase. Just last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation conducted a High Flow Experiment (HFE) where it released water from Lake Powell in the lower Colorado River basin. This alone resulted in Lake Mead rising more than two feet in one week.
The dramatic HFE could be seen at a tight bend in the Colorado River near Pearce Ferry, where the river exits the Grand Canyon but before it enters Lake Mead.
Monolith speedboat submerging again
Because of the rapid rise of the water level, the sunken speedboat described as the ‘Monolith of Lake Mead’ is now surrounded by the murky green water in a once-obscure cove.
The emergence of the speedboat was first documented in May 2022 by Travis Pardee and his children swimming around the hull jutting out of the water. By June 2022 the boat was almost out of the water. As the water level continued to drop not only did the boat stay vertical, firmly stuck in the now hardened mud, it became surrounded by large plants, creating an other-worldly sight.
Projection missed by more than 13 feet
As we begin May, here is a look at what happened at Lake Mead in April.
Lake Mead’s water level began at 1,046.06 feet above sea level (this is the government’s measurement of all Colorado River basin water).
Within six days the lake’s water level dropped a quarter of a foot before beginning to climb. Between Apr. 7 and May 1, the lake’s water level rose to 1,049.77 feet — a gain of 3.99 feet in three weeks.
Reclamation projects water levels at Lake Mead once a month in what is called the “Most Probable 24-Month Study.” In March Reclamation projected Lake Mead to fall to 1,036.30 feet by the end of April. It missed that projection by almost 13 1/2 feet.
In mid-April Reclamation revised its projections, saying Lake Mead would rise to 1,048.80 feet by the end of the month. This was closer but still off almost a foot.
In a news release on April 20, Reclamation reported that it had already started releasing more water from Lake Powell because of the heavy snowpack.
“Reclamation has already increased the monthly release volume for April from Glen Canyon Dam from 552,000 acre-feet to 910,000 acre-feet to be better positioned to release up to 9.5 maf (million acre-feet) by the end of the water year (Sept. 30, 2023). Monthly releases for May through September will also be adjusted as needed.”
According to Reclamation, “The release will not change the annual release volume of up to 9.5 maf from the dam.”
The new projections from Reclamation show Lake Mead’s water level continuing to rise through October of this year by another 17 1/2 feet before another drop.
Currently, Lake Mead remains historically low due to a 23-year megadrought in the southwest. Even with the recent rise, Lake Mead is 179.22 feet lower than full pool, the maximum depth it can reach.
Even after the completion of the HFE, Lake Powell’s water level is again rising. Over the last month, it has risen more than 4 1/2 feet but remains more than 175 feet below its full pool level.