Lake Mead Water Level to Rise, Avoiding Lower Basin Shortages in 2012

We blogged here last fall about Lake Mead‘s record low water levels.  The reservoir reached an all-time low of 1,081.85 above sea level on Nov. 27, 2010.  Now, following the wettest winter in a decade, the mountain snowpack above the Upper Basin of the Colorado River has built up to a level 20% higher than normal.  This will allow the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), as it announced on April 12, to release an additional 3.33 million acre-feet (maf) of water from Utah’s Lake Powell to Nevada’s Lake Mead.  This brings the total to be released up to 11.56 maf, up from earlier projections of only 8.23 maf.  The increased amount of release will avoid shortages in Lake Mead that would have triggered restrictions on water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada users under complex compacts existing between the Colorado River Basin states.  Lake Mead will also benefit from higher-than-expected spring runoffs.  By September 2011, Lake Mead is expected to be at 1,105 feet above sea level, up 20 feet from its October 2010 level.  BOR Commissioner Connor cautioned, however, that this year’s above-average rainfall does not necessarily signal that the Colorado River Basin’s twelve-year drought is over.

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