It’s another dry year on the Colorado River. The two-decade long drought on the river significantly lowered reservoir levels. Lake Powell is about 48 percent full, and Lake Mead, which is downstream from Lake Powell, is about 38 percent full. The federal Bureau of Reclamation believes there is a 57 percent chance of a shortfall in Lake Mead by 2020 with odds of shortages increasing in the future.
The Colorado River faces shortfalls for the foreseeable future because of a structural deficit. The users along the river and its tributaries are legally entitled to more water than the river actually carries. Original allocations that were made in 1922 were based on water flows that were abnormally high. Droughts, climate change and demand from growing cities have exacerbated the problem since then.
A shortfall will trigger mandatory cutbacks of water allotments affecting Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. California has senior and relatively secure rights, but benefits from solutions that reduce the costs of shortages for all parties. The U.S. Department of the Interior has given the seven basin states until the end of the year to complete the drought contingency plans. (Upper Basin states—Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. Lower Basin states—Arizona, California and Nevada). Read More