DENVER – The drought-stressed Colorado River carried less water than expected this summer, increasing the odds of a deficiency in the vital river system in 2020, federal water managers said Friday.
The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation said the chances of a shortage at Lake Mead, the river is the largest reservoir, are now 57 percent, an increase of 52 percent projected in May.
The river and its tributaries serve 40 million people and 6,300 square miles (16,300 square kilometers) of farmland in Mexico and the AMERICAN states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah. A nearly two-year drought, in combination with the rising demand of the growing cities, has reduced the amount of water available in Lake Mead and the river’s other big reservoir of Lake Powell.
If the surface of Lake Mead drops below 1,075 feet (330 meters) above sea level, a number of deliveries would be cut in the framework of agreements on the system. Arizona, Nevada and Mexico would have their shares reduced first in a deficit.
A shortage has never occurred in the river.
“There is a real sense of urgency about the basin to protect the river supply in the light of the increasing demand and the ongoing drought,” said Brenda Burman, head of the Bureau of Reclamation.
The weather forecast got worse because of Lake Powell, upstream of Lake Mead, the gathered approximately 500,000 acre-feet (600 million cubic metres less water than expected between April and July, according to Patti Aaron, a spokeswoman for the agency. An acre-foot (1200 cubic metres) is sufficient for a typical AMERICAN family for a year.
That means that Powell will be up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) lower than expected, with less water available for release into Lake Mead.
Powell collects the water from the upper parts of the river, where it originates as mountain snow.
Burman reiterated its call for the seven U.S. states that use the river to come up with a contingency plan to avoid the mandatory cuts.
The negotiations about the plan slow and difficult, partly because of Arizona’s largest river users are still trying to agree on a unified state position, say the experts.
The Bureau of Reclamation data from the Colorado River to the region’s drought until 2000, but some researchers have said that the river could be experienced on the longer-term transition to a drier climate, the so-called aridification.
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