Lake Mead Reaches Record Low

Jun 10, 2021

Lake Mead, the largest reservoir on the Colorado River and in the country, has fallen to its lowest level since it was first filled in the 1930s. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

File photo from 2015 showing the bathtub ring at Lake Mead
Credit AP Photo/Jae C. Hong


Lake Mead is now below 1072 feet in elevation and is expected to keep dropping this summer and fall. Except for a temporary dip in 2016, that level is unprecedented since Hoover Dam was completed and the reservoir began to fill in the late 1930s.

Both Lake Mead and Lake Powell on the Colorado River are roughly two-thirds empty. Experts anticipate the federal government will declare a shortage in August, which requires Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico to cut back on their use of Colorado River water. Arizona’s cuts will primarily affect farmers who rely on water from the Central Arizona Project.

The Colorado River Basin has been in drought status for more than two decades and scientists say it’s drying out from warmer temperatures caused by global climate change. Policymakers will soon begin negotiations on how to handle shortages in the watershed; the current rules expire in 2026.