On August 16, 2016 the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its August report on the projected operations for the Colorado River system reservoirs for the next two years. The report predicts that a shortage will be narrowly avoided in 2017 in Lake Mead, the Colorado River reservoir that provides water to Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico.

Though a shortage declaration has been narrowly avoided for 2017, the water level at Lake Mead continues to set new record lows, and five-year projections from the Bureau show that there is a high probability of shortage in 2018 and beyond without significant reductions in water use.

“We avoided a shortage by the skin of our teeth,” said Bart Miller, Healthy Rivers Program Director at Western Resource Advocates. “If no action is taken to increase and scale up conservation efforts across the basin, a shortage declaration is not far off. We need to step up water conservation, reuse and innovative water management.”

Between ongoing drought, increasing temperatures, and growing population, demands on the Colorado River far exceed the supply of water. However, concerted efforts to conserve water across the Colorado River basin have shown early promise in addressing the overuse of the river—and may very well be the reason a shortage was not declared for 2017.

These conversation efforts include the System Conservation Pilot Program, a joint effort between the Bureau and four municipal water providers in the Colorado River Basin to support voluntary, temporary, and compensated reductions in water use. The program brings together farmers and ranchers, conservation groups and other stakeholders to conceptualize and test innovative projects that will help ensure the long-term resiliency of the river.

“Even though we have narrowly avoided a shortage declaration for 2017, the work is far from over,” said Brian Moore, Legislative Director at National Audubon Society. “It is critical that Congress passes an Energy and Water appropriations bill that includes the Heller-Reid Water Management Amendment, because it will provide $50 million to help scale up existing successful pilot projects and support additional innovative efforts to conserve water among varied stakeholders.”

For More information contact:

  • Linda Stitzer, Arizona Senior Policy Advisory, 520-488-2436
  • Bart Miller, Healthy Rivers Program Director, 303-886-9871
  • Margaret Delaney, Berlin-Rosen, 202-800-8689