Mead: 1082.96 feet

The Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River operations 24-month study (pdf) is out this afternoon, formally confirming what has been clear for some time: that this year’s release from Lake Powell will be 8.23 million acre feet, the minimum under current operating rules.

Based on the current modeling (see page 11 of the pdf), this means that, by the end of September, the reservoir surface will drop to 1,082.96 feet above sea level. If the models hold, this means that, for the first time in history, Mead’s levels will be below the levels of the drought of the 1950s (specifically March 1956, when it dropped to 1,083.57 feet).

That would be the lowest Mead has been since May, 1937, when the reservoir was first being filled.

(Sorry, I know this is my obsession, and may be boring you, but I think it’s historic. Plus, Yulsman is egging me on.)


  1. At what point will they commence basin-wide rationing? Until something like that happens, each new low will be historic in only the technical sense. Even such rationing may not be seen as a real crisis since increased groundwater use and desal can be made to appear to be a sufficent solution until the rains return. (Now I have a mental image of dancing consultants I’m afraid it may take me a while to shake.)

  2. Steve –

    Great question. Under the current operating rules, if/when Mead drops to 1,075 feet, lower basin deliveries will be curtailed. This could happen as early as next year.

  3. Pingback: River Beat: Mead – Could Be Worse? : jfleck at inkstain

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