Snowpack, runoff, reservoirs
In the comments, Nick from Australia is on “team Powell 3600”. Last month Reclamation was on “team Powell 3569.93“, meaning the projected elevation of Lake Powell above sea level at the end of the water year, and the CBRFC’s forecast for runoff into Powell is up two million acre feet since those numbers were run, so who knows? Given the need to refill Upper Basin storage, I’m not as optimistic as Nick, but whatever. Go Nick!
We don’t have official word yet, but it sure looks from the Lees Ferry gage* that Reclamation is bumping up this year’s Glen Canyon Dam release to 9 million-plus acre feet. But the CBRFC’s most forward-looking runoff forecast (ESP+QPF) has already dropped a million acre feet from April 1. It’s a finicky system.
That, combined with big runoff on the tributaries between Lake Powell and Lake Mead could bump Mead’s elevation by a lot – maybe 20 feet? More? Join Nick in the comments with your predictions!
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
The Interior Department will be sharing with us next week its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for management of Mead and Powell for the next few years. Recall that the driver, when Interior launched the process last year, was the need for adjusted rules (and related environmental review coverage) for releases out of Powell of less than 7 million acre feet per year – call it “team Powell less than 3500 would be really bad“. That’s obviously off the table for 2023, but one hopes Interior doesn’t just say “never mind” and recognizes the need for the fire drill – the lack of rules and accompany operating certainty at these really low levels. Even with a good bump, Mead will still be at perilously low levels, we still have the problem of overuse of 1.5 million acre feet per year.
We still need those new rules that a decade of rhetoric about effective collaborative governance promised you’d be able to develop. Those of us who believed the promises intend to hold you to your commitments.
The best publicly available data, from Reclamation’s regularly updated Lower Basin forecast as of Friday, April 7, shows California finally dipping below its 4.4 million acre feet allocation, but just barely. Perhaps behind the scenes there are plans afoot to leave more water in Mead? If “yes”, please share!
One hopes the basin states and federal government can see their way to a more durable solution that those numbers would indicate.
In the old days of blogging as the centerpiece of online communities, there was a tradition of the “open thread,” to create a conversation space.
There’s gonna be a blizzard of Colorado River news in the coming week. I’ve been pretty successful in fencing myself off from the chaos, that I might focus on the Rio Grande and the new book. I give myself bonus points for bailing out on Twitter, which has pretty much taken the notion of the “open thread” to some sort of dystopian hellscape extreme.
“Open thread” below, discuss among yourselves. I’ll try to join in as I have time.