Deadpool diaries: Bonkers snowpack, open thread

From today’s bike ride, the wall art version of the “open thread”

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!

Full allocation 2023 percentage
California 4.4 4.36 99.1%
Arizona 2.8 2.35 83.9%
Nevada 0.3 0.22 73.3%
Total 7.5 6.93 92.4%


One hopes the basin states and federal government can see their way to a more durable solution that those numbers would indicate.

Nota bene

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.


  1. I think we are facing a future where the longterm average CR flow may remain similar to what we have experienced in recent years – meaning less than 13 million AF per year; but with greater variability (wetter wets, and dryer drys).

    What do you think? If the CR has an average of 1.5-2 MAF less than allocated, but has long periods of substantially less, then Tucson will have to plan for years of substantially reduced flow.

    What’s your vote? My guess is we are facing protracted shortages, interspersed with occasional supplies that are close to our “paper-water” rights.

  2. Well that is certainly good news. The weather forecast for yesterday and maybe into the future is that temperature records are high earlier in the runoff season – before the snowpack sublimates. The may put more wet water into reservoir storage earlier in the season. Perhaps we will reach delivery goals.

  3. Crikey! My somewhat dismal reputation is writ large, a lame elk in a field of seasoned hunters. What gives me hope, however, is the lower UC basin, closer to Powell are showing massive snowpacks – well over 200% above average for pretty well all, and of course pockets much higher – but these are from levels averaging a few inches. Weather over the next month will be telling. A bit more upper level snow and a bit of valley rain should sure up support and have team 3600 doubling down….. in the meantime awaiting the USBR April status update on inflows and expecting to see the 17maf within the 10% upper limit projection to maintain team confidence. The Colorado River Basin Forecast Centre’s 1 April report is showing the 10% at 14.3maf (April to Sept) when added to the 2.7maf inflow so far this year gets us to the magical 17maf! Of course team 3600 is going to look like a pack of galahs if it is closer to team USBR’s 3570 at the end of the peak, but at least now we can point to the Forecast Centre as checking out the team 3600 entry requirements….

  4. Tres English – The answer to your question hides behind the coming changes in water allocation rules. That will determine the size of Tucson’s risk. So no way to know, I think.

  5. Late to the conversation (as usual).

    Nick Power: Love your opening statement about the lame Elk…Had we been discussing the Murray-Darling River Basin I would have said something on the same lines. As for the situation we have on the Colorado River Basin, my reply would be on the lines of – We’re all Dingos on the ‘wrong side of the fence’…

    John: Great Graffiti shot. The only time that I get to see Graffiti nowadays is when I hit the big city or seeing railroad cars passing through Needles CA. Years ago on my rounds, took many Graffiti shots while on the river and infrastructure. Probably will post them sometime in the future.


  6. Well what should land on my desk but an application from USBR to join Team 3600. The Glen Canyon update, hotly anticipated by at least one Gold Coast resident, came out today and as expected the USBR has revised their forecast upward. Their April probable maximum elevation update has Lake Powell at 3,602.99 feet and marks their application into the Team (make sure you use capitals when quoting please – trademark not pending). Inflow wise they show the probable has jumped to 14.47maf and maximum at 17.86maf. Bit more than the Teams prediction of 17Maf but whatever. Maybe Flaming Gorge and Mesa will not be filled. Maybe we will see a bit more precipitation and get to a magic 20Maf.
    Also noticed that Mead may go to 1075 with, I think probable, 9.5maf from Powell and a bit less than Team’s 10am prediction, but hey the seasons bets are not over yet and I think they are underestimating the lower level snow in The lower San Juan And Dirty Devil basins, which dump directly into Powell.

  7. Hey Dave – sorry didn’t see your comment until I posted anew. re the Murray – unfortunately it is an area I am yet to see – still a couple of years off the grey nomad’s great loop. Gotta do a weekend houseboat there!

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