The map above shows the outlook for streamflow in the Western United States in May, from the the River Forecast Center of the National Weather Service. Wherever you see yellow, orange or red dots, streamflow is projected to be below average.
Given this map, it should come as no surprise that the forecast for water flowing into Lake Powell, the giant reservoir along the Colorado River, is dropping. For April through July, the flow forecast is pegged at just 63 percent of normal. And with Lake Powell currently at 56 percent of capacity, and Lake Mead further downstream even lower at just 45 percent — just as we enter the warm season — this is unsettling news.
My thanks go to John Fleck for Tweeting the new flow forecast!
UPDATE: At his blog, John Fleck argues that “come June, Lake Mead could unequivocally drop to its lowest levels since it was first filled in the 1930s.” And given the astonishingly low inflow into Lake Powell that’s projected over the summer months, that reservoir won’t be able to help Mead out.
This may sound like just another Western water shortage story, but I think it really has the potential to be a huge story — because literally tens of millions of people depend on water from the Colorado for drinking and to water the most productive agricultural lands in the country. If you live in the U.S. and you eat, this story probably holds some significance for you.