New projections released this week by the Bureau of Reclamation for the Colorado River system shows both Lake Powell and Lake Mead could reach critical, and lower, levels in the next two years.
Reclamation’s updated two-year study and two- and five-year projections incorporates the new U.S. Climate Normals released by NOAA earlier this year. The report uses data from 1991-2020 and eliminates the wetter conditions seen in the basin during the 1980s, data that was used for projections for the past 10 years.
“Incorporating the updated climate normals into the CBRFC forecasts, and, in turn, into our modeling projections, provides us with a better understanding of what is happening now and will give us a more informed assessment of potential future conditions,” said Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Basin Regional Director Wayne Pullan.
Reclamation has downgraded inflow projections from September’s forecast for Lake Powell’s 2022 inflows, and puts the reservoir eight feet lower at the end of September 2022 that what was forecast last month.
At Lake Mead, the October projections indicate the lake elevation to be 1,050.63 feet at the end of calendar year 2022, less than one foot above the Tier 2 shortage elevation threshold of 1,050 feet. Recent analysis indicates approximately a 16% chance of a Tier 2 shortage condition in 2023.
“We have had to make difficult choices this year, and we will all have to make more difficult decisions if it continues to remain dry next year to protect Lake Mead and Lake Powell,” said Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Basin Regional Director Jacklynn Gould.
Reclamation also announced they will continue to work with all partners across the Colorado River Basin to ensure that both facilities continue to function as authorized to meet the natural, municipal and agricultural needs of the basin.
To view the most recent Colorado River system projections, visit Colorado River System Projections Overview (usbr.gov).