Hurricane Hilary Implications on Lake Mead Water Levels

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Overlooking shot of Lake Mead, Photo by DJ Cabanlong

Did Hurricane Hilary increase the water levels in Lake Mead? The answer to this question is complicated. Yes, it did indirectly impact the water levels in Lake Mead. However, it is still unclear if it was exactly from the rainfall or other contributing factors. 

Hurricane Hilary came flooding into the state of Nevada on Aug. 20, 2023, just in time for Las Vegas’ monsoon season. This hurricane left the streets flooded and ruined parts of the Las Vegas valley. After two days, Nevada was finally free from the hurricane, but it is important to note that, from this hurricane, there was a lot of talk about the increase in water levels in Lake Mead. Historically speaking, rainfall does not usually impact the water levels in Lake Mead. Nevada is mainly surrounded by desert, and because of this, the rainfall experienced in the state is never substantially enough to increase water levels drastically. 

According to the water reporter of the Las Vegas Review Journal, Colton Lockhead,“the water levels from Hurricane Hilary did not directly have a substantial increase like what we see from snowpacks.” He further went on to state, “we get 190 million gallons of water going into Lake Mead on any given day, but the majority of the water comes from the Colorado River, which feeds into Lake Powell, which then feeds into Lake Mead.” This emphasizes that the increase of water levels is not coming directly from the rainfall experienced during the hurricane. 

During the interview with Lockhead, he mentioned that even though the rainfall was not the contributing factor when it came to the increase in water levels in the lake, there were some indirect causes. Lockhead further went on to mention that the indirect effect of the risen water levels come from the fact that most people will turn off their sprinkler systems due to the amount of water from the hurricane. When people do this, there tends to be a reduction in water delivery to houses, and when the water does not go to the house, it recycles into Lake Mead. In fact, from Hurricane Hilary alone, there was a 25 percent reduction in water delivery to the houses because people were turning off their sprinkler systems. This is what Lake Mead saw when it came to the water levels; it was not from the rainfall itself. 

“The vast majority of the water Lake Mead gets comes from the snow melts from the Rocky Mountains which feeds to the Colorado River, to Lake Powell, to Lake Mead, ” Lockhead stated. He mentioned that this is the only type of weather event that could drastically increase the water levels in Lake Mead, but it still is not always enough. He further went on to state, “The water we get from the Colorado River goes directly to other surrounding states lakes.” Meaning that Lake Mead only gets a portion of the recycled water from the Colorado River. 
If you would like to hear more from Colton Lockhead, email him at clochhead@reviewjournal.com for any further comments or questions.

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