Lake Mead dealing with record water levels - Tucson News Now

Lake Mead dealing with record water levels

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Drought in the southwestern U.S. has depleted Lake Mead this week to levels not seen since the Hoover Dam was completed on the Colorado River in the 1930's. The Southwest has remained in the grips of an everlasting drought for the past 14 years, forcing waters down 130 feet since a high-water mark was last reached in 2000.


Since February 21, the water has dropped nearly 30 feet, putting the largest reservoir in the country at only 39 percent capacity. Boaters and swimmers have largely ignored the dropping water levels due to the refreshing cold water on 100-plus-degree summer days. But they've also dealt with marina closures in recent years. Visitors now need to trek hundreds of yards with sandwiches and beach blankets to enjoy a waterside lunch or a beach day. 

Large cities such as Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Diego have sucked up vital water from the Colorado River allowing water levels along all lakes to be down from water highs. 

The Central Arizona Project, which supplies water to Phoenix and Tucson, is the largest and most expensive aqueduct system ever constructed in the United States. It is over 300 miles long and runs from Parker to Tucson. The CAP takes in Colorado River water which is released from Lake Mead and supplies our water in Tucson along with ground water.

Not all is bad along the Colorado River. The above image is a graph looking at water levels from Lake Powell, the second largest lake on the Colorado and upstream from Lake Mead. Notice that since February the lake has risen around 35 feet. This is thanks to a very wet snow season in the Colorado and Utah. This water could be released down river to help maintain Lake Mead if needed.

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