Disappointing Runoff Season Leads Feds To Lower Predictions For Lake Mead

By Will Stone, Mark Brodie
Published: Friday, June 16, 2017 - 11:36am
Updated: Friday, June 16, 2017 - 2:31pm
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National Park Service
Lake Mead.

Expectations that a big winter would fill up Lake Mead may have been premature.

With record snowpack across the West, forecasts were looking good earlier this year, but new numbers show the reservoir will have significantly less water than initially anticipated.  

“It just really shows the volatility of the system,” Arizona’s Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke said. “It got drier and warmer sooner, so we are not seeing the snow turn into water in the river. We are seeing the snow evaporate away or be used more by vegetation.”

The new estimates still put the lake above the trigger point of 1,075 feet. For next year, the June forecast predicts the water level will be about five feet above the trigger point in 2018 and about one foot for 2019. Buschatzke said the runoff will be about comparable to normal years, but not the blockbuster many had been expecting.

Buschatzke said the state may ramp up conservation efforts in an effort to bolster the lake's water supply and avoid a shortage declaration. 

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