New projections show dire impact of drought on future water levels

Local News

FILE – In this Aug. 13, 2020 file photo a bathtub ring of light minerals delineates the high water mark on Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, near Boulder City, Nev. The Bureau of Reclamation is forecasting first-ever water shortages because of falling levels at Lake Mead and says the reservoir could drop so low that it might not be able to generate electricity at Hoover Dam. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The government released updated 2-year projections Thursday that indicate water levels at Lake Mead will be inching closer to a Tier 2 shortage by the end of next year. A Tier 1 shortage was declared earlier this year.

“At Lake Mead, the October projections indicate Lake Mead will be at elevation 1,050.63 feet at the end of the 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.

These updated projections were the first to include updated climate conditions and forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA uses a 30-year period and just updated it to reflect conditions from 1991-2020. That’s significant because it includes the drought which started in 2000 and doesn’t include the 1980s which was a wetter decade.

The Colorado River system serves 40 million people. Most of the flow into the river is fed from the Rocky Mountains. It was an especially dry spring in 2021.

Lake Powell has been hit hard by the 22-year drought and under the new projections stands to lose even more water. Projections show Lake Powell which is a storage basin for the four upper Colorado Basin states only received 32% of the average flow for 2021. It could impact its ability to to produce power for Glen Canyon Dam.

“The median water year 2022 inflow forecast into Lake Powell decreased by 800,000 acre-feet and Reclamation’s October projections show lower Lake Powell elevations compared to the September projections.,” according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

“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.

Lake Mead, which stores water for the Lower Basin states,

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