Reservoir behind Hoover Dam dips to historic low

Hoover Dam

The drought impacting the southwestern United States has caused Nevada's Lake Mead to dip to its lowest water levels since the Hoover Dam was completed in the 1930s, according to Bureau of Reclamation officials.

Reclamation's Boulder Canyon Operations Office projects the lake's elevation to drop to about 1,080 feet above sea level, though the agency said it is not expecting shortage conditions until at least 2015.

Lake Mead annually supplies about 9 million acre-feet (maf) of water to homes, businesses, farms, Native American tribes and communities, and Mexico.

"We will meet our water orders this year," Lower Colorado regional director Terry Fulp said. "We continue to closely monitor the projections of declining lake levels and are working with stakeholders throughout the Lower Basin to keep as much water in Lake Mead as we can through various storage and conservation efforts."

Annual releases from Lake Mead and its upstream counterpart, Lake Powell, are determined in accordance with the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinate Operations.

Only if Lake Mead projected to reach an elevation of 1,075 feet by January 1 of each year would the Secretary of the Interior determine a shortage condition and reduce water deliveries in the Lower Basin. Reclamation said it projects Lake Mead's elevation to be about 1,083 feet on Jan. 1, 2015.

Lake Powell will have released a record low amount of water -- 7.48 maf -- into Lake Mead in Water Year 2014, which ends September 30, in accordance with the 2007 guidelines. Reclamation expects the release to increase between 8.23 maf and 9 maf in Water Year 2015.

HydroWorld.com reported this past August that Reclamation was forecasting decreased releases from Lake Mead this water year. The bureau has also announced decreased releases into the American River as a result of the ongoing drought.

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