River Beat: AZ May Not Need to Leave Water in Mead

With the mondo snow pack and good runoff forecast, Arizona may no longer need to leave some of its annual share of Colorado River water in Lake Mead, Shaun McKinnon reports:

The CAP had been discussing a plan to forfeit as much as 80,000 acre-feet of its allocation this year to help keep water levels at Lake Mead from falling below an elevation of 1,075 feet above sea level, the first drought trigger.

At that level, Arizona would lose 320,000 acre-feet of its 2.8 million acre-foot allocation for at least a year.

An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, enough to serve two average households for one year.

The water left in Lake Mead was to be taken from a pool of excess water available for underground recharge and would not affect any cities or farmers. The intent of the plan was to give up a little water to avoid bigger losses.

The bureau’s forecast should render the plan unnecessary. Hydrologists now predict above-average runoff – as high as 120 percent of the 30-year average – on the upper Colorado from April through July, when most of the snow melts and flows into the river.