Opinion: Lake Mead’s forecast went from tanking to stabilizing in just one month. Why did it change so quickly? And what does that mean moving forward?
By Joanna Allhands || Arizona Republic
What a difference a month makes.
The March 24-month forecast, which predicts reservoir levels along the Colorado River for the next two years, had Lake Mead on a steady trajectory downward.
The lake was projected by next year to fall into a Tier 2B shortage – one that, for the first time, would require California to begin participating in mandatory cuts.
And it would plummet into a Tier 3 shortage – requiring the deepest cuts to which we’ve currently agreed – the following year.
But now April’s here, and everything’s different.
How much better are we talking?
This month’s forecast now suggests that Lake Mead could start next water year in a Tier 1 shortage, requiring far less water from Arizona than we are now mandated to give.
Instead of a steady march toward 1,000 feet of elevation, which was the case last month, Lake Mead is now projected to rise to a high point of about 1,070 feet by early next year.
That would still be shy of removing us completely from shortage actions, but only by about 5 feet.
It’s almost night and day from where we were.
Consider that only a few months ago, the federal Bureau of Reclamation was considering the impact of a record low 5 to 6 million acre-feet release from Lake Powell to Lake Mead.
And even last month, the presumption was to release 7 million acre-feet from Powell to Mead this year, which is why Mead was on a trajectory to nowhere good.
What changed so quickly?