See how much Lake Mead levels drop in just one year in images snapped from space

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Lake Mead began filling with water in May of 1937 upon completion of the Hoover Dam. After over two years of water flowing into the lake, water levels reached 1080', an important number for water managers. That number ensures states taking water out of Lake Mead have a consistent water source and proper function of the Hoover Dam hydroelectric power plant.  

As of the start of August 2014, Lake Mead is once again at the 1080' level. This is partly due to a long-term drought for both rain and snow in the western U.S., plus a consistent overdraft (more water coming out than going in) of lake water by water users.  

The images below show how dramatic the drop can look at the lake in just one year.  According to NASA Earth Observatory these images were snapped on July 21, 2014, and June 16, 2013, by the Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite. Both images show the lake at its south end, near Hoover Dam. Differences in water color could be a difference in the amount of suspended sediment or a result of slightly different lighting. Shorelines retreated over the year, and islands in the middle of the lake continue to grow as water recedes."

During this time water levels in Lake Mead dropped around 25'. 

June 16, 2013



July 21, 2014


Click here for an Image Comparison Tool from NASA Earth Observatory.


Lake Mead last reached full capacity at 1229' in the 1980s. Plus on only three occasions have water levels in the lake dropped below 1100'. According to NASA Earth Observatory that was "during a serious drought from 1955–1957; when Lake Powell was created (and upstream water flow slowed) in 1964–1965; and late in 2010, during the current drought."

If water levels drop to 1075', water restrictions are put into place with Arizona's Central Arizona Project taking the first round of cuts. The University of Arizona Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) is taking a look at the impact in a series of podcasts. Click here for details on the podcasts.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved. 

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