Snowpack & Colorado River Recovery

Among the arid lands where water from the Colorado River makes agriculture possible is the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation, which serves Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi, and Navajo peoples. More than 70,000 acres of alfalfa, cotton, potatoes, and other crops are being produced on the reservation. (Image credit: Ted Wood/The Water Desk, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

The Colorado River holds our attention for many reasons, but mostly now due to climate impact. Our thanks to Bob Henson at Yale Climate Connection for this:

Wet winter won’t fix Colorado River woes

“One year of good flows doesn’t mean we have a trend,” noted one expert.

Snowpack has been running well above average this winter across the Colorado River watershed. It’s a rare bright spot after 23 years of grinding megadrought brought the driest conditions in 1,200 years to the basin that supplies 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Mexico.

Should the generous rains and mountain snows continue into spring, they could help head off a deeper water crisis, including perhaps an unprecedented loss of hydropower generation from severely depleted Lake Powell and Lake Mead. As of August 2022, chances that such a loss of generation, known as a “minimum power pool,” could happen by late 2023 had risen to an alarming 30%, according to calculations released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Autumn and early winter moisture has now pushed those odds back below 10% as of the January update from the bureau. The lake level by December was almost three feet higher than had been projected in August.

Yet although the moisture is welcome, some experts worry it could further delay the hard work that managers of the watershed must do to keep it healthy and make its service more inclusive as the climate grows hotter and more parched.

“As soon as water supplies increase, people tend to stop paying attention,” said Kathy Jacobs, director of the University of Arizona’s Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions, in an interview. “I hope people realize that even one year of good flows doesn’t mean we have a trend in that direction. We really need a long-term solution.”

Read the whole article here.

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