From The Arizona Republic (Ian James):
…in a new report, scientists say the situation is just as worrisome upstream at Lake Powell.
The declines there during the past 18 years, they say, also reflect the Colorado River’s worsening “structural deficit.”
The 10 scientists, who make up the Colorado River Research Group, said even though the four Upper Basin states — Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — haven’t been using all the water they’re legally entitled to, Lake Powell has declined due to extra water releases into Mead.
Those releases, they said, are “the only thing that has kept Lake Mead from dropping into shortage conditions.”
“I want people to know that what’s going on at Lake Mead is very, very closely tied to what’s going on Lake Powell,” said Doug Kenney, the group’s chair and a professor at the University of Colorado. “We’re draining Lake Powell to prop it up.”
The scientists titled their report “It’s Hard to Fill a Bathtub When the Drain is Wide Open.”
The Colorado River basin, which stretches from Wyoming to Mexico, has been drying out during what scientists say is one of the driest 19-year periods in the past 1,200 years. The river has long been over-allocated, with the demands of farms and cities exceeding the available water supply, and the strains are being compounded by growing population, drought and climate change…
The scientists suggested that Lake Powell could bounce back better in wet years if “new operational rules” are developed…
“Better options might be found by thinking outside of this familiar framework. Lakes Mead and Powell, after all, are essentially one giant reservoir,” the group said. “Managing — and thinking — of these facilities as two distinct reservoirs, one for the benefit of the Upper Basin and one for the Lower, now seems outdated.”