Hydrologic Conditions: Colorado River Basin, January 2016

Current Conditions

Lake Mead current (01-2016)_Web

Lake Mead: Lake Mead’s current elevation is now 6.86 feet below the elevation of Lake Mead in January 2015 and 83.07 feet below the historical January elevation of Lake Mead.


Lake Powell current (01-2016)_Web

Lake Powell: Lake Powell’s current elevation is now 5.68 feet ABOVE the elevation of Lake Powell in January 2015 but is still 28.21 feet below the historical January elevation of Lake Powell.


24-Month Study


Lake Mead 24-Month (01-2016)_WebLake Mead: The January 2016 24-Month Study projects that Lake Mead’s January 2017 elevation will be 1,079.23 feet, or 4.32 feet above the trigger elevation for a declaration of a shortage condition for 2017.  The trend continues toward increased shortage risk in the Lower Colorado River Basin, perhaps as early as 2017.

Actual Lake Mead elevations in 2013 through early 2014 followed projections from the January 2013 study, when actual elevations plummeted generally following the projections from the August 2013 study. The August 2014 study projected a slight increase in Lake Mead elevations which was slightly below actual elevations. With a recent rebound in inflows, the forecasts prepared last summer are above the August 2014 forecast.

The August 2015 study forecasts that Lake Mead elevations will fall below the trigger for shortages in late spring 2016 but rebound towards the trigger for January 2017. The January 2016 projections are slightly below the August 2015 projections. Right now, the prospect for a shortage declaration in 2017 for the Colorado River Basin sits on a “knife edge.”

The continuing trend of progressively lower “highs” in successive winter elevations and lower “lows” in successive summer elevations belies a continuing downward trend in Lake Mead elevations. 2017 is looking like the first time shortages may be triggered in the Lower Basin.



Lake Powell 24-Month (01-2016)_WebLake Powell: The January 2016 24-Month Study continues a projected upward trend in Lake Powell elevations. The January 2016 projections are slightly below the August 2015 projections.  Actual Lake Powell elevations in 2013 were generally running below forecasted levels in January 2013, but above the levels projected in the August 2013 study. Actual elevations have generally tracked the projections in the August 2014 study. The August 2015 study projected elevations above the August 2014 study.

The trend of progressively higher “highs” in successive June elevations and higher “lows” in successive March elevations continues. When will Powell elevations reach their peak?

Monthly Elevations


Lake Mead history (01-2016)_Web

Lake Mead: Monthly elevations in 2015 remain lower than in 2014 and almost 90 feet below historical monthly average elevations.


Lake Powell history (01-2016)_Web

Lake Powell: Monthly elevations in 2015 are higher than in 2014 (although the differences are declining in recent months) but remain about 30 feet below historical monthly average elevations.