Colorado River Facing Unprecedented Challenges
It is an unprecedented era for water management in the Colorado River basin. The severity and magnitude of drought’s impacts to the basin is becoming more clear for all of us who depend on the river in the West.
What We Know.
Current forecasts project below-average surface water runoff in the Colorado River basin again in 2022-2023, and there is growing evidence that future average runoff will continue to decline due to ongoing aridification in the basin. In the face of these conditions, communities that rely on Colorado River water in the United States and Mexico face significant risk due to declining storage at Lakes Mead and Lake Powell.
On August 16, 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) announced that Lake Mead will enter “Tier 2a” shortage conditions, requiring additional reductions in use of over 600,000 acre-feet under current operating rules. Reclamation has also called for an additional 2 to 4 million acre-feet in “demand reduction” within the entire basin.
On top of this, interstate politics are preventing basin states from advancing collaboration and needed reform: absent strong action from the states, Reclamation’s “Minimum Probable Forecast” now shows that Lake Powell could drop below levels required to generate power as soon as 2023.
So Where Does That Leave Us?
We’ve always maintained that the business voice and the brands are key drivers in this conversation. It’s clear that predictable and stable water supply are the foundation for businesses operation and growth across the West. We anticipate growing scrutiny on water use and water policy, and the corporate voice and influence will be key to help the region do more with less water.
We will continue our work to urge leaders to prioritize bold actions that directly address the reality of drought, climate change and water shortage.
In the meantime, we seek to provide our partners with updates regarding water supply trends that will affect business and communities in the West, and will continue to share relevant details on this page.
Colorado River shortages in the news
- What happens if Lake Powell runs out of water?, The Hill
- ADWR Director And CAP General Manager Give Grim Assessment Of Colorado River Conditions, AZ Dept of Water Resources
- 100 years after the compact, Colorado River nearing crisis point, Associated Press
- Feds declare first Colorado River shortage, order water cuts for 2022, NBC News
Read our July 2022 blog post on these issues for further detail, and stay tuned to this page for timely updates
CO River Facts
- Southern California cities rely on the river for roughly 1/3 of their water
- Las Vegas receives ~90% of its water from Lake Mead and the river
- Arizona relies on the river for 36% of its water
CO River Shortage
Reservoir levels drastically low-September 2022
Lake Mead 23% full
Lake Powell 24% full
Managing water during drought- some states will start to see cuts in 2023, with additional cuts to Lower Basin states expected.
Tier 2A cuts for 2023
Arizona- 21% less water
Nevada- 7% less water