Snow a Thirst Quencher for Lake Mead

By By Tiffany Getz, AccuWeather Staff Writer
February 23, 2011, 7:07:32 AM EST

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Lake Mead may see water levels rise more than 24 feet, and that will certainly quench the thirst caused by previous droughts.

The lake provides a significant amount of water to the Las Vegas Valley, located on the Colorado River, southeast of Las Vegas, Nev.

Lake Powell, a partner of the Colorado River Compact, annually releases 8.23 million acre-feet of water into Lake Mead. A higher threshold at Lake Powell will allow for an increase in the available amount given to Lake Mead.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Lake Powell is more then 30 percent above historic levels because of large snow accumulation in the Colorado River Basin.

Andrew Munzo, spokesman for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, told the Las Vegas Sun that 100,000 acre-feet is equal to about 1 foot of elevation. If 3.13 million additional acre-feet of water were to be pumped into the lake at once, the surface level would rise more then 30 feet.

Water is released into Lake Mead at a gradual pace and actual levels will depend on several variables, such as evaporation. While the amount is uncertain, any additional amount will help the parched lake.

In 1999, a drought in the Colorado River Basin brought levels at Lake Mead to an extreme low. Because of the decrease in water levels boat launch ramps were forced to close. Due to the shrinking shorelines, road extensions and service is needed.

As several winter storms hit the region this year the melting snow will help raise water levels. Eventually, if the lake continues to see more water flow, it could explore reopening boat launches.

The lake is open for year-round recreational adventures, such as wildlife viewing and hiking. It is also the host to eight campgrounds.

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