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Circular 1381

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Southern Nevada Water Authority, University of Nevada, Reno, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas

A Synthesis of Aquatic Science for Management of Lakes Mead and Mohave

Edited by Michael R. Rosen, Kent Turner, Steven L. Goodbred, and Jennell M. Miller

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (16.1 MB)Summary

Lakes Mead and Mohave, which are the centerpieces of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, provide many significant benefits that have made the modern development of the Southwestern United States possible. Lake Mead is the largest reservoir by volume in the nation and it supplies critical storage of water supplies for more than 25 million people in three Western States (California, Arizona, and Nevada). Storage within Lake Mead supplies drinking water and the hydropower to provide electricity for major cities including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Tucson, and San Diego, and irrigation of more than 2.5 million acres of croplands. Lake Mead is arguably the most important reservoir in the nation because of its size and the services it delivers to the Western United States.

This Circular includes seven chapters. Chapter 1 provides a short summary of the overall findings and management implications for Lakes Mead and Mohave that can be used to guide the reader through the rest of the Circular. Chapter 2 introduces the environmental setting and characteristics of Lakes Mead and Mohave and provides a brief management context of the lakes within the Colorado River system as well as overviews of the geological bedrock and sediment accumulations of the lakes. Chapter 3 contains summaries of the operational and hydrologic characteristics of Lakes Mead and Mohave. Chapter 4 provides information on water quality, including discussion on the monitoring of contaminants and sediments within the reservoirs. Chapter 5 describes aquatic biota and wildlife, including food-web dynamics, plankton, invertebrates, fish, aquatic birds, and aquatic vegetation. Chapter 6 outlines threats and stressors to the health of Lake Mead aquatic ecosystems that include a range of environmental contaminants, invasive species, and climate change. Chapter 7 provides a more detailed summary of overall findings that are presented in Chapter 1; and it contains a more detailed discussion on associated management implications, additional research, and monitoring needs.

First posted January 29, 2013

  • General Information Product 148
    Wessells, S.M., and Rosen, M.J., 2013, Lake Mead—Clear and Vital: U.S. Geological Survey General Information Product 148, DVD movie, 13 minutes.

For additional information contact:
Director, Nevada Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
2730 N. Deer Run Road
Carson City, Nevada 89701

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Rosen, M.R., Turner, K., Goodbred, S.L., and Miller, J.M., eds., 2012, A synthesis of aquatic science for management of Lakes Mead and Mohave: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1381, 162 p.





Chapter 1.—Introduction and Summary of Findings
By Kent Turner, Michael R. Rosen, Steven L. Goodbred, and Jennell M. Miller

Chapter 2.—Environmental Setting of Lake Mead National Recreation Area
By Kent Turner, Michael R. Rosen, G. Chris Holdren, Steven L. Goodbred, and David C. Twichell

Chapter 3.—Hydrology and Management of Lakes Mead and Mohave within the Colorado River Basin
By G. Chris Holdren, Todd Tietjen, Kent Turner, and Jennell M. Miller

Chapter 4.—Lake Water Quality
By Todd Tietjen, G. Chris Holdren, Michael R. Rosen, Ronald J. Veley, Michael J. Moran, Brett Vanderford, Wai Hing Wong, and Douglas D. Drury

Chapter 5.—Wildlife and Biological Resources
By Sudeep Chandra, Scott R. Abella, Brandon A. Albrecht, Joseph G. Barnes, E. Cayenne Engel, Steven L. Goodbred, Paul B. Holden, Ron B. Kegerries, Jef R. Jaeger, Erik Orsak, Michael R. Rosen, John Sjöberg, and Wai Hing Wong

Chapter 6.—Threats and Stressors to the Health of the Ecosystems of Lakes Mead and Mohave
By Michael R. Rosen, Steven L. Goodbred, Wai Hing Wong, Reynaldo Patiño, Kent Turner, Craig J. Palmer, and Peggy Roefer

Chapter 7.—Management Implications of the Science
By Kent Turner, Steven L. Goodbred, Michael R. Rosen, and Jennell M. Miller


Appendix A.—List of 96 species compiled from observations made during monthly aquatic bird surveys on Lakes Mead and Mohave over a 5-year period (2004–2009)

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