I’m happy (nay enthusiastic!) to point out the way Lake Mead keeps dropping, but it’s worth nothing this as well: Colorado River water use in Arizona, Nevada, and California this year is currently forecast at 7.006 million acre feet (source: pdf), well below the three states’ nominal legal entitlement of 7.5 million acre feet.
The current forecast:
- Arizona: 92 percent of its 2.8 maf entitlement
- California: 95 percent of its 4.4 maf entitlement
- Nevada: 84 percent of its 300,000 acre foot entitlement
This is important. The problem we face in the Colorado River Basin is that there’s less actual wet water in the system than there is legal entitlement to water. As long as people keep taking their full legal entitlement, the system keeps pushing toward a crash. These numbers reflect a conscious effort by Lower Basin water users and system managers to grapple with that reality.
In combination with a release of extra water this year from Lake Powell, upstream, the Lower Basin demand management underway now is enough to hold Lake Mead to a forecast drop of 1.6 feet in 2016 (source: pdf). That’s still a drop, but nothing like the 7 to 14 foot annual drop we’ve seen in the last few years. Not enough, but headed in the right direction.