Outlook for vital Colorado River remains grim

Recreational boaters ride along in Lake Mead in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada, July 17, 2014 | Associated Press file photo by John Locher, St. George News

DENVER (AP) — The outlook for the most important river in the Southwestern U.S. remains grim this summer after April storms failed to produce much snow in the mountains that feed the waterway, forecasters said Monday.

Colorado River as it flows through Marble Canyon looking east from the Navajo Bridge, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, Jan. 1, 2018 | File photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the Colorado River is expected to carry only 43 percent of the average amount of water into Lake Powell, one of two huge reservoirs that store and distribute the river.

It’s the fifth-lowest forecast in 54 years.

“It’s pretty dramatic. It’s a very low runoff season,” said Greg Smith, a hydrologist with the agency.

But officials have said that Lake Powell and its companion, Lake Mead, will be high enough to avoid mandatory cutbacks for water users this year.

The Colorado River serves about 40 million people and 6,300 square miles of farmland in United States and Mexico.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah all use the river or its tributaries, along with 20 Native American reservations.

The river is under increasing stress because of rising demand and declining flows. The region has been in a drought for 18 years – long enough that some researchers say it may represent a permanent shift.

Global warming is also contributing to the reduced river flows, scientists said.

Last year’s snowfall was uneven but mostly below average across the mountains that feed the Colorado.

The western Wyoming mountains that give rise to the Green River, the Colorado’s largest tributary, received 116 percent of their average snow at the peak of the winter, Smith said.

But river valleys in southwestern Colorado ranged from 44 to 56 percent of average at their best.

“Southwest Colorado had their lowest precipitation on record,” Smith said.

One significant storm hit the Colorado River region in April, but snow fell only at the highest elevations, Smith said. Lower regions got mostly rain, and unlike snow, rain runs off immediately and can’t be as easily captured in reservoirs for later use.

Water levels in some mountain rivers will peak in the next week or so as the snow melts, Smith said. That’s earlier than usual but mostly within the normal range, he said.

Written by DAN ELLIOT, Associated Press

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • comments May 9, 2018 at 11:49 am

    how quick can they build that pipe. Better do it quick.

  • Real Life May 9, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Better hurry up with that pipeline!

  • hiker75 May 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    A lot of good that pipeline will do!

  • Not_So_Much May 9, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    Facts won’t get in the way of developers and politicians. So if a $3 BILLION pipeline is built and little or no water winds up in Washington county who will owe what?

    • comments May 9, 2018 at 3:21 pm

      Exactly. It’s called take the money and run.

  • Striker4 May 9, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Yep.. keep watering those lawns during winter and keep watering those lawns during the rain storms and keep building water parks and splash pads. keep all those casinos in the Las Vegas desert surrounded by water..dont worry there will be plenty of water available as soon as the pole caps all melt…oops I forgot there is no such thing as global warming

  • RadRabbit May 9, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    California needs to get more desalination plants going and stop dumping reservoir water into the ocean.

  • indy-vfr May 9, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    I remember being at Hoover Dam in 1984 when the Emergency Spillways flowed water for the first time ever…… It will happen again! Maybe some of you Doom & Gloomers should stop flushing & drinking so much of it!

  • utahdiablo May 9, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    Aww heck, lowest in 54 years huh….oh well, build baby build….the taxpayers in Washington County will pay for it, what else can they do, move away?…Bwahahahaha

  • vintagehippie May 10, 2018 at 10:27 am

    It’s for sure that the developers won’t pay for it. All they’re responsible is overpopulating what was a very nice area. We will be the one’s stuck with the bill.

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