WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 14, 2011 -- The Bureau of Reclamation plans to release a projected additional 3.33 million acre-feet (maf) of water from Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona to Lake Mead in Nevada over the next six months.
The Bureau had already planned to release 8.23 maf but was able to supplement that amount due to significant snowpack in the Upper Basin of the Colorado River.
The release fulfills the guidelines of an agreement reached in 2007 between the Department of the Interior and the seven Colorado River Basin States. The agreement provides operational guidelines for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, particularly under low-reservoir conditions.
After eleven years of drought conditions, the possibility of water shortages in the Lower Basin over the coming year was increased. "But thanks to good precipitation, wise planning, and strong collaboration among the states, we are able to release additional water and avert those shortages," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Total releases in Water Year 2011 (which ends September 30, 2011) are now projected at 11.56 maf. The current spring runoff inflow forecast for Lake Powell is 9.5 maf, which is 120% of average and an increase of 300,000 acre-feet over last year's inflow forecast.
Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor was cautiously optimistic about the increase: "The Colorado River Basin has experienced historic drought, and while this winter's snowpack will benefit river flows, we cannot say that the drought is over."
At the present time, Lake Powell is 52 percent full with 12.7 maf of water in storage.