High Snowpack Triggers Additional Releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead in Accordance with New Guidelines

Media Contact: Barry Wirth, (801) 524-3774
Bob Walsh, (702) 293-8421

For Release: April 11, 2008

An above average snowpack in the Colorado River Basin that will result in a higher than normal inflow into Lake Powell this year will cause increased releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead.

The increased releases are in accordance with the Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

The interim guidelines include specific elevations at both reservoirs that trigger increases or decreases in the annual volume of water released from Lake Powell, providing a more equitable distribution of water between the two reservoirs. These guidelines were issued by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne in December 2007 following a 2-1/2 year collaborative process that involved the seven Colorado River Basin states, non-governmental organizations, power and recreational users, Indian Tribes and other stakeholders.

The National Weather Service is projecting this year's spring runoff into Lake Powell will be 122 percent of average. That will raise Lake Powell, currently at elevation 3591 feet above mean sea level, approximately 50 feet by mid-July, to its highest elevation in six years. Powell is currently projected to end the calendar year almost 40 feet higher than it is today.

For the past seven years, the annual release from Lake Powell to Lake Mead has been 8.23 million acre-feet. Based on the April 1 inflow forecast, Reclamation projected that, by the end of September, Lake Powell would rise above 3636 feet above mean sea level (msl) and Lake Mead would be below 1105 feet msl. In accordance with the interim guidelines, an additional amount of water will therefore be released from Lake Powell to Lake Mead for water year 2008 (Oct. 1, 2007 - September 30, 2008).

Reclamation is currently projecting a release of approximately 653,000 acre-feet of additional water, which would result in a total 2008 water year release from Lake Powell of about 8.88 million acre-feet (maf). Reclamation anticipates that this projection will be adjusted upward or downward in upcoming months based on changing hydrologic conditions and observed snowmelt runoff during the spring. It also should be noted that the water released from Lake Powell during the 60-hour high flow experiment in early March is part of the projected 8.88 maf total release from Lake Powell for Water Year 2008.

Lake Mead is currently at approximately elevation 1114 feet msl. Based on the projected additional water, Lake Mead is currently projected to be at elevation 1109 feet msl by the end of December, or about six feet higher than what was projected in January.

The Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead can be viewed or downloaded at http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/strategies/RecordofDecision.pdf

Conditions at Lake Powell and Lake Mead on April 9, 2008 and
Projected Conditions for September 30,2008 and December 31, 20081
Date Lake Powell
Elev. (Feet)
Lake Powell
Content (1000AF)
Lake Powell Percent of Capacity2 Lake Mead
Elevation (feet)
Lake Mead Content (1000 AF) Lake Mead Percent of Capacity2
4/9/08 3591 10,889 45 1114 12,780 49
9/30/08 3635 15,380 63 1105 11,934 46
12/31/08 3632 15,041 62 1109 12,311 48
1Based on current projected 2008 water year release of 8.88 million acre-feet from Lake Powell to Lake Mead. These are the currently projected numbers and are subject to change.
2Percent based on capacity of 24,320,000 acre-feet at Lake Powell and 25,877,000 acre-feet at Lake Mead

# # #

Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at www.usbr.gov and follow us on Twitter @USBR.