USBR Projects Increased Risk Of Shortage On Colorado River

Sep 16, 2020

New projections from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation show the chances of future water shortages on the Colorado River have risen sharply following a dry year. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

Credit National Park Service, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

The Colorado River Basin has been in drought for the past two decades. Assuming those dry conditions continue, the projections show a 32 percent chance of a shortage in the Lower Basin by the year 2022.

"That increases to almost as high as 80 percent, or 77 percent, by 2025," said Carly Jerla, USBR hydrologist, at a press conference yesterday. "Again this is a pretty significant increase over what was projected in April…due to the declining runoff this year."

Hydrologists also looked at when Lake Mead might drop to critically low levels, or less than a quarter of its capacity. That chance is low for the next four years but increases to nearly 20 percent in 2025. USBR Commissioner Brenda Burman said the Drought Contingency Plan mitigates the risk of shortage. It’s a seven-state agreement to cut water use when certain triggers are reached.

"There is uncertainty and risk on the horizon, but the policy decisions we’ve been making have been made to address that risk," Burman said.

Burman said warmer temperatures due to climate change have worsened the region’s drought. This year’s runoff in the Colorado River is 55 percent of normal.