Central Arizona Water Conservation District
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In Arizona: 895 Feet is Zero
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895 elevation feet is the elevation below which Hoover Dam cannot pump water into the Colorado River south of the dam and at which point geologists describe the lake as "Dead Pool." Phoenix and the surrounding area draw 40% of its water from this source.
40% of the water in Phoenix and the surrounding area comes from the Colorado River south of Lake Mead - water is brought to Central Arizona by a 336 mile canal, Central Arizona Project, or CAP. That water source is threatened by lowering levels of Lake Mead.
More on this in a moment, but in the six months since March, 2022, Lake Mead has lost 33 "elevation" feet of water supply capacity. This is a staggering reduction of water volume in a short period of time.
Lake Mead's levels are recorded and published in elevation-feet - the location of the Lake's surface, above sea level. This can be misleading to many in the general public.
When we say that Lake Mead, in September, 2022, is at 1042 feet, we mean it's surface is at 1042 feet above sea level, we do not mean that there is 1042 feet of water elevation available in the Lake.
In July, 1983, Lake Mead rose to its highest recorded level of 1,225.83 feet, requiring use of spillway gates as it exceeded its "capacity" of 1221 elevation feet. Many decades later, in March, 2022, the Lake had dropped to 1075 elevation feet, a 151 foot drop.
More alarmingly, between March and September, in just six months time, the Lake lost 33 elevation feet.
In rough numbers this steep decline is described by most officials as a loss of around 1 million "acre feet" of water volume - but again officials rely on a unit, "acre-feet", that can be confusing to the general public. It is probably more useful to promote general understanding to use the more common term "gallons".
The six-month, 33 elevation-foot, 1-million "acre feet" drop in Lake Mead represents a loss of over 300 billion gallons of water supply capacity.
Arizona, and the entire southwestern desert, cannot afford for levels to continue to fall and risk approaching 895 feet, "deal pool".