No Lake Mead shortage, thanks to plentiful precipitation

Colorado River basin map. Shannon1 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Seven states rely on water from the Colorado River. The rules and laws governing it are known as “The Law of the River.” The rules include those from the federal government which was prepared to declare a Lake Mead shortage due to drought. This would have triggered mandatory cutbacks for Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico.

Thankfully, Colorado, portions of which were in extreme drought, no longer is due to large amounts of snow this winter. The state is still abnormally dry. However lots more water than predicted or even hoped for is coming to the lower states. That means Lake Mead gets hugely needed water and the shortage will not happen in 2020 and probably not in 2021 either. This is a welcome reprieve.

The current forecast calls for Mead ending 2019 at elevation 1,080, five feet above the threshold at which a set of rules previously developed by state and federal governments would have reduced allocations to Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. That is more than eight feet higher than the projected elevation just a month ago.

More importantly, the new projections suggest now that there will be another 9 million acre foot release from Lake Powell in 2020, rather than the 7.48maf 2020 release projected just a month ago. The result is a preliminary end-of-2021 Mead forecast 20 feet higher than was expected just a month ago: