Federal researcher says drought may ease in Colorado River Basin | SummitDaily.com

Federal researcher says drought may ease in Colorado River Basin

DENVER ” In an encouraging forecast for the drought-stricken West, a federal weather researcher says snowmelt could send twice as much water to Lake Powell next spring as it received last spring.

Melting snow flowing down the Colorado River could supply 7.3 million acre-feet of water to the reservoir. Last spring, it received 3.6 million acre-feet. One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, or about enough water to supply one or two typical families for a year.

The river supplies about 25 million people in the West, including about half the water needed by the 3.6 million people on Colorado’s heavily populated Front Range.

David Brandon, chief hydrologist for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, presented his snowmelt forecast this week at the annual meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association in Las Vegas.

“That’s not bad news. That’s pretty good news,” he told the Rocky Mountain News.

Lake Powell and Lake Mead allow Western states to store extra water in wet years. But the regional drought has dropped the two reservoirs to about 50 percent of capacity. Flows into Lake Powell lake have been below average for the past five years.

Brandon said various forecasts are calling for normal precipitation throughout the Colorado River Basin. He said there are slightly higher chances of wet weather in the southern basin and slightly drier forecasts in northern states such as Wyoming.

Fall stream flows in the river are higher than they’ve been in the past five years, lending strength to the notion that winter and spring snows may deliver enough moisture to provide at least temporary drought relief, he said.

“Is the drought over? We hate that question,” Brandon said. “No. It’s not over yet. But we think its impacts may ease.”

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