Chances increase for lakes Powell and Mead to fall to critically low levels by 2025

Modeling results for Colorado River Basin operations indicate continued drought and an increased chance of potential water shortages by 2025, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

The Colorado River Simulation System modeling results, released at least three times per year, provide water managers with information needed to plan for the future. The Colorado River Basin is in its 21st year of an extended drought. As reservoir levels decline, operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead are potentially impacted.

Lake Powell, upstream from Lake Mead, stores water used to power the 1,312-MW Glen Canyon powerhouse. Lake Mead stores water used to power the 2,080-MW Hoover powerhouse.

“Reclamation’s technical experts provide leading-edge scientific modeling,” said Commissioner Brenda Burman. “That science helps us protect the water resources in the Basin, ensuring sustainable, reliable water and hydropower for the 40 million people who depend on this river.”

Due to the below average runoff this year (55% of average for the water year), the CRSS projections indicate an increase by as much as 12% in the chance of Lake Powell and Lake Mead falling to critically low reservoir levels by 2025 as compared with projections released this spring. The chance of a Lower Basin shortage determination increased by as much as 20% through 2025, assuming a dry hydrologic future similar to what the basin has experienced over the past two decades. These increases put the chances of reaching critically lower levels near 20% and a Lower Basin shortage near 80% by 2025.

The extended drought increases the importance of ongoing drought contingency actions and operational adjustments that Reclamation and partner entities have taken on the river. These actions demonstrate that voluntary, compensated water conservation projects can conserve water for the Colorado River system storage and help mitigate the impacts of drought, Reclamation said.

A key source of Reclamation’s technical capability comes through a partnership with University of Colorado-Boulder, where Reclamation helped establish and supports the Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems. In collaboration with the Colorado River regional operations offices, Reclamation uses the best available science to develop reliable projections to guide water management and operational decisions.

Reclamation, a federal agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior, is the largest wholesale water supplier and second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the U.S.


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