Lake Mead Water Level Forecast Shows Point Deadpool Could Start Closing In

A Lake Mead water level forecast has shown the point at which deadpool level could start closing in at the reservoir. Deadpool is the level when the water in a reservoir can no longer flow downstream from a dam. For Lake Mead, this level is 895 feet.

A forecast from the Bureau of Reclamation released on August 31 show the two and five year projections at the lake. In the worst-case-scenario, the water level is expected to fall to just above 990 feet in July 2024.

Lake Mead is the biggest man-made reservoir in North America, and its water levels are rapidly evaporating. The lake, which lies across Nevada and Arizona, is drying up due to the ongoing megadrought in the western United States.

Its turbines work to provide electricity for hundreds of thousands of people living across the area, but the water levels are rapidly inching towards deadpool level, when the dam's turbines will no longer be able to generate power.

As of September 1, the lake's level was 1,044.34 feet.

Lake Mead
A photo shows drought damage in Lake Mead. By the end of July 2024, water levels could nearly be at deadpool level. FREDERIC J. BROWN/Getty

According to a two-year probabilistic projection of the Colorado River system from the Bureau of Reclamation, Lake Mead could reach 992 feet by the end of July 2024. This is the Bureau's "probable minimum" level the Lake could reach within 24 months.

The "probable maximum" level is projected to be 1,059.41 feet. In other words, this is the best case scenario.

According to the Bureau, the most likely scenario is that the water levels drop to 1,013.7.

These estimates are based upon Lake Mead projections from August 2022.

The lake's water levels have actually increased slightly recently due to heavy rainfall in the area.

On July 27, the lake's water levels were at 1,040.71 feet, which is the lowest they have been since the lake was first being filled in the 1930s. Then, the Las Vegas Valley saw an unprecedented amount of rain, unlike anything seen in a decade.

Rain was falling everyday, meaning the lake's levels began to increase. In just over a month, the lake's water levels have risen over four feet. But water levels are still less than a third of the lake's entire capacity.

It is no surprise that Lake Mead's water levels rose slightly. This usually happens with seasonal weather patterns. But due to the drought, these patterns are becoming harder to predict, and rainfall is less frequent.

The southwestern megadrought started in 2000. It could be the driest period seen in this part of the world since 800 C.E.

Lake Mead does not just rely on rainfall for its water. Levels would usually fluctuate seasonally due to the winter snowpack flowing down from the Rocky Mountains. But during the drought, this is also less predictable.

Correction 09/02/22 7.57 a.m. ET: This article has been corrected and updated to say the projection does not show when deadpool could be reached, but when it could be close.