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  • Writer's pictureMark L. Johnson

Water Woes XXII-Cautious & Frugal

The water situation in the West has improved but it is only one year in a 24-year period whereby the Colorado River reservoir system has declined to 35% capacity. We must be cautious and frugal.


Colorado River Water Status

The Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) in the upper Colorado River Basin was 161% of normal for Water Year (WY) 2023 (Oct 2022-Sep 2023). See graph-left provided by the United State Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). Good news!

This has resulted in improved projections for Lake Mead elevations with a most probable elevation of 1,068 feet (35% full) at the end of CY 2023 and 1,058 feet (32% full) at the end CY 2024 (see USBR graph-right). Lake Mead is currently at elevation 1,050' (30% full). Better but not out of the woods.

However, this is one year in a 24-year drought period. The USBR graph-right shows inflow to Lake Powell since WY 2000 and the projected flow for WY 2023. Note the lower inflows after above normal inflows in 2011, 2017 and 2019. This is the aridification pattern that has the scientists concerned.

The Colorado River Water situation has improved in the short-term but we must cautious about the long-term.


Arizona SEIS Impacts

The chart below was published by the Central Arizona Project (CAP) and shows potential shortage volume reductions under the three SEIS alternatives with the improved WY 2023 conditions. See Water Woes XXI for more details.

Note the shortage volume reductions to Arizona are significant under Alternative 1 with the M&I (Municipal & Industrial) portion only getting 56% of the normal Colorado River allocation. Alternative 2 is much better for Arizona with M&I receiving 95% of the allocation. Tortolita Alliance (TA) still strongly supports Alternative 2.

Some are saying that the improved Colorado River conditions may negate the need for the proposed SEIS volume shortage reductions. We say absolutely not. Alternative 2 should be implemented as history shows that one wet year is not a signal to be lavish but a time to be frugal.


Arizona H2O Conditions

TA attended the Tucson Local Drought Impact Group (LDIG) meeting on 5/9/23. 82% of the state is in a no-drought condition on a short term basis.

However, on a long term basis much of Arizona is abnormally dry or worse. If the aridification theory holds true, these drought maps could soon turn red again.


Monsoon Forecast

Could not find an actual monsoon forecast for our region but the National Weather Service is predicting below normal precipitation for June-July-August. See map below.

The monsoon clouds are starting to appear. The desert floor is currently very dry. We could use some monsoonal rain. Let's see how much rain we get this season!


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