Water Levels In Lakes Mead And Powell Will Be Reduced If Drought Continues, According To Study

August 14, 2013

There is more proof the region’s stubborn drought is affecting water supplies in Arizona and other western states. A new federal report predicts water levels in Colorado River reservoirs will drop significantly over the next few years. The Colorado River sends water into Lake Powell and then downstream to Lake Mead, but a new study by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said if the extreme dry conditions continue, releases of water from Lake Powell into Lake Mead will have to be reduced by nearly 10 percent in 2014 and 2015. 

The Central Arizona Project sells Colorado River water to millions of people in Phoenix and Tucson.  CAP General Manager David Modeer said the water company has been planning for reduced supplies. 

“We will probably go into shortage in 2016. CAP will be impacted by several hundred thousand acre foot," Modeer said. "Now, that’s not going to impact our cities and towns.”

Because he said CAP has more than 8 million acre feet of water stored underground which could last the region a couple years, but he said  farmers and other Arizona groups that store water underground would see a 20 percent reduction in CAP water in 2016. 

Arizona Department of Water Resources Deputy Director Michael Lacey said lower lake levels could lead to another problem. 

“Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon are both hydroelectric dams, and if you release less water you produce less electricity,” Lacey said.

If the water shortage happens Lacey said people in Las Vegas and southern Nevada would suffer the most because Lake Mead’s levels would fall dramatically.  He said long-term weather forecasts don not indicate relief is on the way. 

“I don’t anticipate the flows between Powell and Mead to change barring a Noah’s Ark kind of event,” Lacey said.

Arizona officials said conservation efforts need to continue to ensure that western states will have enough water to get through the drought.  

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