Colorado River at ‘critical’ levels, water deliveries to Mexico in doubt

Border Report

SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Water levels in the Colorado River are a lot lower than normal reducing the water coming into Lake Powell and Lake Mead, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

Lake Powell, located at the Utah and Arizona border, is said to be 30 feet below normal and shrinking. Lake Mead, which sits behind Hoover Dam east of Las Vegas, is at its lowest point since the late 1930s when the dam was built and the lake was created.

The Colorado provides water to more than 40 million people in Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

A lot of its water is also promised to farmers south of the border in Mexicali, part of a treaty the U.S. signed with Mexico in 1944. Some of it is also critical for wildlife to survive in the river’s delta at the Gulf of Baja California.

Mexico is entitled to 1.5 million acre-feet of water per year. An acre-foot of water equals about 326,000 gallons or enough water to cover an acre of land a foot deep.

Two years of drought and lower-than-normal snowfall in the Rocky Mountains are partly to blame for the lower-than-normal levels in the Colorado River, and thus, places such as Lake Mead.

The level of water in the lake determines how much water will be delivered in the region.

“The reclamation who oversees the operation for the river is forecasting a shortage on the river for next year,” said Kelly Rodgers with the San Diego County Water Authority. “They are predicting a shortage in 2022.”

Rodgers said states such as Arizona and Nevada will see the difference, but not as much in California because agencies such as SDCWA have taken steps to diversify their water supply and have built storage reservoirs and other facilities.

And the agency is also reportedly set to contribute water to Lake Mead as a way to raise its level, something others also do.

“It will help us help the entire basin and Mexico by raising the level of Lake Mead.”

The Bureau of Reclamation will do readings on the lake in August to determine how much water is left and how much of it gets dispensed to various states and water agencies throughout the region.

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