#ColoradoRiver: Powell and Mead get a boost from recent rainy weather #COriver

Upper Colorado River Basin Water Year 2016 precipitation as a percent of normal through August 31, 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.
Upper Colorado River Basin Water Year 2016 precipitation as a percent of normal through August 31, 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Recent and prolonged wet weather across regions that help feed water levels in Lake Powell has had a downstream effect that has water-watchers encouraged.

Lake Powell wrapped up the water year nearly 500,000 acre-feet more full of Colorado River water than it did last year.

At the same time, the water level of Lake Mead rose slightly over the 12-month period ending Sept. 30.

Lake Powell ended the year at 53 percent full.

The 12-month period beginning Oct. 1 was dubbed the “water year” by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Conservation efforts by the states of the lower Colorado River Basin — Arizona, California, Nevada — resulted in 10 more feet of water in Lake Mead this year “and thus averted a shortage trigger this year,” said James Eklund, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which shepherded the state’s first water plan into existence nearly a year ago.

“We can’t pop the end-of-water-year champagne just yet,” Eklund said. “We need to continue and finalize the (drought) contingency planning work so that it’s in place as soon as possible.”

That planning is geared toward keeping water levels high enough in Lake Powell to allow Glen Canyon Dam to generate electricity while also meeting the Upper Colorado River Basin’s responsibility to supply 7.5 million acre-feet of water to the lower basin, based on a 10-year rolling average.

While Lake Powell grew slightly, Blue Mesa, the largest lake in Colorado, shrunk, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoirs.

Blue Mesa filled in to 825,000 acre-feet and ended the 2015 water year with 725,000 acre-feet of water, or 87 percent of full.

This year, Blue Mesa’s high-water mark was 799,000 acre-feet and it ended the water year Friday with 668,000 acre-feet, or 80 percent full.

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