Latest projections for drought-plagued Colorado River more troubling

Latest projections for drought-plagued Colorado River more troubling
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New projections from the U.S. government have provided a grim outlook for the effects of the drought-plagued Colorado River.

The Bureau of Reclamation's projections, used to aid in determining water management planning, found the drought plaguing the Colorado River Basin could lead to Lake Powell and Lake Mead hitting “critically-low elevations.”

The projection shows a 66 percent chance that Lake Mead, which is used to determine the amount of river water certain states receive from the river basin, could reach a low enough level that California could be cut by 2025.

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Lake Powell, meanwhile, holds a 25 percent to 35 percent chance of falling below its minimum power pool range after 2022. This factors in the 3 percent chance the lake declines to a level where the Glen Canyon Dam becomes unable to produce hydropower by July 2022.

“The latest outlook for Lake Powell is troubling,” Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Basin Regional Director Wayne Pullan said in a news release. “This highlights the importance of continuing to work collaboratively with the Basin States, Tribes and other partners toward solutions.”

The total Colorado River system storage runoff is 39 percent of its capacity currently, a decline from its 49 percent capacity this time last year.

The bureau announced in August the first recorded shortage to the Colorado River, which will lead to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico receiving less water next year.

“We’re providing detailed information on our modeling and projections to further generate productive discussions about the future of Lake Powell and Lake Mead based on the best data available,” said Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Basin Regional Director Jacklynn Gould. “Being prepared to adopt further actions to protect the elevations at these reservoirs remains a Reclamation priority and focus.”