Sixteen years of drought on the Colorado River, a key water supply for California, have increased the chance that Lake Mead will fall low enough to trigger a shortage declaration in the not-too-distant future. It seems a matter of when and not if. The reservoir now sits at 40 percent capacity and federal officials say there is a 48 percent chance of a shortage declaration in 2018.
Last year, representatives from the federal government, California and the other Lower Basin states, and Mexico came close to an interlinked, multi-party agreement on how to slow the reservoir’s decline to better prepare for a reduction in water supplies. They failed to finalize a drought contingency plan before the end of the Obama administration, leaving stakeholders wondering what will happen now.
Californians continue to receive optimistic news that parts of the state will see significant drought relief in 2017. One positive development is a strong likelihood that San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos will be full by April 1 – the first time since 2011.
As of Tuesday, the 2 million acre-feet reservoir was at 78 percent of capacity. This is a stark contrast to last August when the reservoir was at its lowest level in 25 years.
The Water Education Foundation is known for its colorful, poster-sized maps detailing California water, the lower Colorado River and the Delta, and its acclaimed series of Layperson’s Guides examining such topics as California water, water rights, groundwater and 13 other subjects.