U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS -- Light snow falls and an early, warm spring
have federal officials predicting below-normal flows into the
Colorado River this year.
"We didn't get quite as much snow as we'd hoped, and it got very
warm, very quickly in the upper basin, so snow melted very rapidly,"
said Terry Fulp of Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that oversees
management of the river. "That means we lost more water to
evaporation and seeping into the ground."
Fulp presented the projections at the first of three meetings in
which representatives from state water agencies and power, tribal and
environmental interests compile an annual Colorado River operating
plan to be submitted to the Interior Department in September.
Fulp said the National Weather Service is projecting runoff from
the snow melt at 72 percent of normal levels in the April to July
period. Forecasts for the "water year" of October to September call
for similar levels.
The numbers are down from last year, when water levels rose after
five years of record drought and flows came in above normal.
Officials caution one good year doesn't end a drought.
"My answer when people ask, 'Is the drought over?' is 'We still
don't know,"' Fulp said. "We had a better year last year, but then
again we've had a sub par year this year. We don't know where we are
in the drought sequence."
Fulp said the projected levels will not likely force changes in
the river's management plan because there is still enough water in
storage. The system is at 59 percent of capacity, and is expected to
fall to 58 percent by the end of September.
Officials predicted a slight increase in the water level at Lake
Powell by the end of the water year and slight decreases for the
system's other major reservoir, Lake Mead. Lake Powell is projected
to be 52 percent full in September, Lake Mead is forecast at 54
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