U.S. projections on drought-stricken Colorado River worsen
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – The U.S. government on Wednesday released projections that point to an even more troubling outlook for a river that serves 40 million people in the American West.
The Bureau of Reclamation recently declared the very first shortage on the Colorado River, which means Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will receive less water than normal next year. By 2025, there is a 66% chance that Lake Mead, a barometer of how much river water some states receive, will reach a level where California is in its second phase of cuts. The country’s most populous state holds the highest rights to river water.
While the reservoir at the Nevada-Arizona border is essential for these three states in the lower Colorado River basin, Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border is the guide for Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah. in the upper pelvis. Smaller reservoirs upstream of Lake Powell released water into the huge lake so it could continue to generate hydroelectricity. But any bump from the outings that started this summer is not factored into the five-year projections, the Bureau of Reclamation said.
Agency projections show that there is a 3% chance that Lake Powell will reach a level where the Glen Canyon Dam holding it back cannot produce hydroelectricity by July 2022 if the region experiences another dry winter. .
“The latest outlook for Lake Powell is troubling,” Wayne Pullan, director of the upper basin office, said in a statement. “This underscores the importance of continuing to work collaboratively with basin states, tribes and other partners to find solutions.”
Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the largest man-made reservoirs in the United States, are largely dependent on melting snow. They have been hit hard by a persistent drought linked to climate change, characterized by a trend of warming and drying out over the past 30 years.
Both have plunged to historic lows. The lakes had a combined capacity of 39% on Wednesday, up from 49% at the same time last year, the Bureau of Reclamation said.
The seven states that depend on the Colorado River signed a drought plan in 2019 to help support the lakes by voluntarily providing water. All agree that more needs to be done and are discussing what will replace a set of guidelines for the river and the overlapping drought plan when they both expire in 2026.
The federal government has also formed a task force.
The Bureau of Reclamation’s five-year projections are intended to help water managers better plan for the future using the best data available, said Jacklynn Gould, who oversees the lower basin for the agency. Its August projections are what determines water deliveries to states.
The agency says there is a 22% chance that Lake Mead will fall to an elevation of 1,000 feet (304 meters) above sea level in 2025. Federal officials have said the water will become inaccessible to downstream states at 895 feet (272 meters) feet, often referred to as a “dead pool”.
The agency that supplies water to most Nevada residents has built “straws” to draw water lower into Lake Mead when it drops.
This story has been corrected to show that Lake Powell has a 3% chance of reaching a point where hydropower from the Glen Canyon Dam would be impacted in 2022, not 90%.
See AP’s full drought coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/droughts