April 24 month study released

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Colorado River Bend

The United States Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) has released its April 24 Month Study, which projects Colorado River operations for the next two years.  The study projects the operating conditions of the Colorado River system, as well as runoff and reservoir conditions.  The Upper Basin experienced around average snowpack (107%) this year, and the April-July inflow into Lake Powell is expected to be 78% of average.  The below-average projection is due to extremely dry conditions in the basin during October and November of 2019. Consistent with the 2007 Interim Guidelines, Lake Powell will operate under an annual release of 8.23 million acre feet in water year 2020.

The April 24 Month Study projects Lake Mead’s January 1, 2021 elevation to be 1084.69 feet, putting Lake Mead in a Tier Zero condition for 2021.  The Study also projects a Tier Zero condition for Lake Mead in 2022 with the projected January 1, 2022 elevation of 1084.39 feet. Tier Zero conditions require a 192,000 acre-foot reduction in Arizona’s 2.8 million acre-foot allocation.  These reductions will fall entirely on Central Arizona Project (CAP) supplies, impacting CAP supplies for water banking, replenishment and agricultural users.  The Tier Zero reductions will not impact tribal or municipal CAP water users.

While the Tier Zero reductions are significant, they are part of broader efforts being implemented to reduce the near-term risks of deeper reductions to Arizona’s Colorado River supplies.  In addition to the Tier Zero reductions to CAP supplies, other programs to conserve and store water are being implemented in Arizona.  These include programs with the Colorado River Indian Tribes, Gila River Indian Community, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Metro Water District, Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR), Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD), as well as Reclamation. 

The April 24 Month Study shows that in the near term, the programs being implemented in Arizona and across the Colorado River system, along with favorable hydrology, have helped avoid a near-term crisis in the Colorado River system.  However, we continue to face significant near-term and long-term risks to Arizona’s Colorado River supplies.  We have much more work to do to address our shared risks.  ADWR and CAWCD intend to jointly convene Arizona water stakeholders to address these risks and to prepare for new negotiations regarding the long-term operating rules on the Colorado River later this year.