Happy New (Water) Year – Here’s Your Recap of Last Water Year!

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2020 Water Summary

If you’re looking for a reason to celebrate, please consider whooping it up for the Colorado River’s Water New Year! That’s right, in the “water world,” New Year’s is October 1, since the Water Year extends from October through the following September. So, Water Year 2020 ended Sept. 30, 2020! And we’re now in Water Year 2021.

Why does the Water Year work that way?

This is how “water wonks” (those folks who area really into hydrology!) measure snowpack and runoff. So, how did the 2020 Water Year shape up? Truthfully, it seemed to mimic the uncertainty we’ve all experienced this past year:

  • Fall 2019 followed recent trends and was warm and dry
  • Winter 2019-20 had normal to slightly above-normal snow accumulation
  • Spring 2020 appeared poised for a normal runoff season into Lakes Powell and Mead
  • But then. . .Spring and Summer 2020 were abnormally hot and dry – August inflows were the second lowest in more than 50 years!
  • The 2020 Water Year ended with inflows that were a little more than half of the 30-year median

In short, we had a near-normal snowpack that was significantly depleted by a hot, dry spring and summer, ending with poor inflows. These below-normal inflows have increased the risks of a Tier One shortage for 2022 and 2023.