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Released On: April 24, 2007

Reclamation Issues Water Supply Update
Editor's Note: For the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor Map access the following website: http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html

The Bureau of Reclamation today released an update on the water supply in the Western United States. After hoping for a wet and cool March, the opposite occurred instead - unseasonably dry with near-record warmth - and nearly every Western basin registered a decline in snow packs with significant meltouts. According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service's April 1 Western Snowpack Conditions and Water Supply Forecasts, the losses were greatest in the Southwest and central Oregon, where snow packs declined more than 30%. As a result, snow packs are extremely low in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, and eastern Oregon. Some sites in central Arizona, Utah, northern Nevada, and eastern Oregon had already melted out. This was also true in California's Sierra Nevada, and should result in a very poor spring and summer stream flow and runoff. Fortunately, April 1 reservoir storages are above seasonal averages in Calif., Colo., Idaho, Nev., and Wash., and only slightly below-normal in Ore. and Utah, providing some cushion from the expected poor 2007 stream flow and runoff forecast. In contrast, Ariz., Mont., N.M., and Wyo. reservoirs are at below-normal capacities.

"In many areas of the West we continue to face a drought that has had impacts for the past several years," said Reclamation Commissioner Robert Johnson. "The continuation of the drought is cause for concern. Our saving grace is the water storage system we have across the West that has allowed us to efficiently manage water deliveries in times of drought as well as in times of plenty. The system is working but water managers and the public need to continue prudent use of our limited water supplies."

Commissioner Johnson indicated that one exception can be found in the Great Plains Region where he says, "Initial signs indicate a spring that is more normal and wetter than what the Region has faced in past years. The State of Oklahoma is drought free for the first time since 2005 and although the drought is far from over in the region, it provides some much-needed short-term relief."

The ramifications of a warm and dry March continue to be felt in some parts of the West.

All states in the West are gearing up for a potentially early and long fire season as a result of the drought and early snowmelt combination.

Following are current conditions in the major basins in the Western United States:

Mid-Pacific Region (Northern Calif., Southern Ore., Northern Nev.). Klamath Basin - Upper Klamath Lake's projected runoff (Water Year Type) remains classified below average for the irrigation season projected at 70% of average inflow. The Lost River Basin also remains considerably drier with a spring runoff forecast at 41 % of average. This year's projected water supply projection continues to meet the water requirements of fish, wildlife, and irrigation. CVP - reservoir storage levels compared to the 15-year average are: Trinity - 100% and Shasta - 99%.

Great Plains Region (Colo., Mont., Wyo., N.D., S.D., Neb., Kan., Okla, & Texas). Weather conditions across the northern portion of the Great Plains Region are more reminiscent of springs once past. Several days of cool temperatures and precipitation are followed by warmer and dry conditions. Precipitation has ranged from wet, heavy snow to light misty rainfall. Temperatures have ranged from the low 30's to the upper 60's. Spring crops are beginning to emerge across the Region. Although the drought is far from over, the initial signs are for a more normal and wetter spring than what the Region has faced in past years.

Upper Colorado Region (N.M., Utah, Western Colo. & Southern Wyo.). Colder temperatures descended over much of this Region and slowed the snowmelt. While the significant decrease in both snowpack and projected runoff has slowed, the deficit in snow accumulation and deceased snowmelt at an earlier than average time frame cannot be recaptured. Colder temperatures and above average precipitation is predicted for this region over the next two weeks. The runoff into Lake Powell is currently projected at 53% of normal.

Lower Colorado Region (Southern Nev., Ariz., and Southern Cailf.). Lake Mead is currently at 53 percent of capacity. Its elevation is currently 1122.17 feet (97.4 feet below full pool). Based on our daily reservoir operations Lake Meads elevation is projected to be approximately 1120.58 feet by the end of April. The Salt River Project reservoirs on the Salt and Verde Rivers in central Arizona are currently at 63 percent of capacity, and runoff is at 30 percent of normal. The current snowpack in the Gila Basin is only 15 percent of average, while flows on the Little Colorado River and Virgin River are currently less than 10% and less than 50%, respectively. The 15 day outlook for the Lower Colorado Region depicts above average temperature conditions and below average conditions for precipitation.

Pacific Northwest Region (Idaho, Ore., Wash., Western Wyo & Western Mont.). The first half of April has brought typical spring weather to the Pacific Northwest Region: a little bit of everything. The unseasonably warm March has been replaced with more normal temps along with occasional blustery winds and showers. A strong winter-like storm is currently impacting much of the interior of the region with cold temperatures and moderate snow in the mountains. The current weather helps to reduce irrigation demands and/or maintain them at normal levels, but a continuation of wet weather into May would be needed to materially affect the water supply. Most reservoirs will fill this year, with the primary exception of several in Eastern Oregon.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at www.usbr.gov.