Hydrologic Conditions: Colorado River Basin, March 2016

Current Conditions


Lake Mead

Current Conditions Mead (03-2016)_WEB

Lake Mead’s current elevation is now 2.90 feet below the elevation of Lake Mead in March 2015 and 80.07 feet below the historical March elevation of Lake Mead.


Lake Powell

Current Conditions Powell (03-2016)_WEB

Lake Powell’s current elevation is now 2.16 feet ABOVE the elevation of Lake Powell in March 2015 but is still 29.98 feet below the historical March elevation of Lake Powell.


24-Month Study


Lake Mead

Lake Mead 24-Month (03-2016)_WEB

The March 2016 24-Month Study projects that Lake Mead’s January 2017 elevation will be 1,078.37 feet, or 3.37 feet above the trigger elevation for a declaration of a shortage condition for 2017.  The March 2016 forecasts for Lake Mead elevations are slightly below the levels forecasted last month.  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 in tandem with 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 February 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

Lake Powell 24-Month (03-2016)_WEBThe March 2016 24-Month Study continues with a projected upward trend in Lake Powell elevations, although the projected elevation is below the projections from the February 2016 24-Month Study. The March 2016 projections are 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 February 2016 projected elevations are running slightly above the August 2015 study projections.

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
Monthly History Mead (03-2016)_WEB

Monthly elevations in 2016 are lower than in 2015 and about 80 feet below historical average monthly elevations.


Lake Powell

Monthly History Powell (03-2016)_WEB

Monthly elevations in 2016 are higher than in 2015 but remain about 30 feet below historical monthly average elevations.