Colorado River-Climate Change

Farmer John Hawk looks over his land as his seed onion fields are watered Sept. 3, 2002, in Holtville, Calif.

CASA GRANDE — Farmers and other users of Colorado River water in Pinal County will not have to worry about additional water shortages for the rest of this year.

Rain and snowfall levels, along with conservation efforts by all of the states that share Colorado River water, have banked enough water that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation may not have to reduce the amount of water it releases to Arizona for the rest of the year, said Bret Esslin from the Arizona Department of Water Resources' Colorado River Management Section at a meeting of the Groundwater Users Advisory Council for the Pinal Active Management Area Wednesday morning.

Esslin was referring to a two-year water level forecast study for Lake Mead and Lake Powell that the bureau released in August.

According to the study, water levels in Lake Mead at the end of 2019 will officially trigger a reduction in Colorado River water to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico, Central Arizona Project Colorado River Programs Manager Chuck Cullom stated in an August blog post. However, because Arizona has voluntarily left more than 192,000 acre-feet of water in the system over the last five years, Arizona will not see a reduction in the amount of water it gets.

But, if the next several months remain as dry as the last two months, the bureau may have to release more water from Lake Powell into Lake Mead in April 2020, Esslin said.

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