Update: The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) is projecting that Lake Mead will end 2018 about four and half feet about the shortage declaration cutoff of 1,075 feet in elevation.
Lower projections in April caused a “balancing release” of water from Lake Powell to bring Lake Mead to above 1,075 feet.
That is good news for central Arizona water users, who would have to take cuts in their annual allotments of Colorado River water if Lake Mead levels fell below 1,075 feet, the agreed-upon level for taking cuts.
On February 9, the Arizona Water News interviewed Tom Buschatzke, Director of The Arizona Department of Water Resources to discuss the consequences of what may be a record-low amount of runoff into the Colorado River system from the 2017-2018 Winter snowpack. [i]
The entire Southwest has experienced one of the warmest, driest winters on record. The lack of snowpack runoff in the Colorado River system will likely be followed with a continuation of dry weather into the spring.
Key points from the interview:
- In the upper basin of the Colorado River, the snow-water equivalent is tracking lower than 2002, which was the lowest year in recorded history for 100 years of records.
- The forecast from Lake Powell to Lake Mead is 9 million acre-feet. Normal release is 23 million acre-feet. If the unregulated inflow gets to a certain low level, that 9 million acre-feet release won’t occur. You will get 8.23 million acre-feet.
- If we can’t conserve enough water in Lake Mead between mid-April and the end of July would be the time to conserve.
- If the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada continues at low levels and the allocations of the State Water Project remain low, it means that they will look to make up the difference probably from the Colorado River and potentially from Lake Mead.
- Many Colorado River stakeholders felt that last winter’s higher-than-average snowpack created a so-called “comfort zone” delaying finalizing the t Drought Contingency Plan The stakeholders agree on the need to finalize that Plan and address the increasing risks of shortages going into 2019.
Click on the endnote for a complete article and a transcript of the conversation.