Reclamation Issues Drought Update

Media Contact: Kip White, (202) 513-0684

For Release: April 23, 2004

Note: For the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor Map access the following website

The Bureau of Reclamation today released an update on the continuing drought facing the western United States.

"We are in the fifth consecutive year of a drought that has had impacts throughout the West," said Reclamation Commissioner John Keys. "The foresight of the planners and engineers who designed the dams and reservoirs of Reclamation's water storage system across the West has allowed us to efficiently manage water deliveries in times of drought as well as in times of plenty. The system is working. It is doing the job that was intended when it was first designed."

The ramifications of a warm and dry March continue to be felt in some parts of the West. In Idaho, two counties (Clark and Butte) have been declared as "Drought Emergencies" by Governor Dirk Kempthorne and extreme drought conditions have expanded to cover more of the Snake River Basin.

In Montana, some rains did fall in the northwestern part of the state, but these were insufficient or widespread enough to prevent drought conditions from spreading into the region. Meanwhile, dryness over the winter has exacerbated drought conditions in the north-central part of Montana. Great Falls had their driest October-March period in 112 years of record. As a result, the severe and extreme classifications in Montana have been extended northward.

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. ). Central Valley Project (CVP) reservoir storage levels remain slightly above the 15-year average, except Folsom Lake which is at 96 percent of the 15-year average. Accumulative inflows for the water year to date range from 118 percent in the Trinity Basin, 103 percent in the Shasta Basin, to 73 percent in the American Basin, 78 percent in the Stanislaus Basin, and 79 percent in the Upper San Joaquin Basin.

Great Plains Region ( Colo. , Mont. , Wyo. , N.D., S.D., Neb. , Kan. , Okla. & Texas ). Montana , Wyoming , and Colorado will face a sixth year of drought in 2004 unless significant moisture occurs this spring. Temperatures are forecasted to be normal or above for this time of year, while precipitation is below normal. Reclamation reservoirs are at extremely low levels, many recording the lowest levels for the end of December. Inflows have been at record low levels. Available storage in Reclamation facilities in Nebraska and Kansas , as well as at several locations in Montana and Wyoming , has reached minimum levels.

Upper Colorado Region (N.M., Utah , Western Colo. , Southern Wyo. ). The drought continues, although April has been much wetter than last month's devastatingly dry weather, with noticeable improvements to severely depleted snowpacks. The Pecos River Basin has seen the highest snowpack improvement, climbing from 49 percent in January to 122 percent today, with a resulting improvement in the runoff forecast. Lake Powell is forecast to receive 50 percent of normal inflows during the spring runoff this year, following four previous years of drought. At 42 percent of live capacity, Powell is now 117 feet below full pool and only 93 feet above minimum power pool. Projections call for Powell to drop to 136 feet below full pool by next March. The Rio Grande and Pecos rivers are both flowing well, with current projections calling for nearly full diversions.

Pacific Northwest Region ( Idaho , Ore. , Wash. , Western Wyo. & Western Mont. ). This region has seen little change in its water supply outlook since the last update. Weather has remained fairly benign but with very little precipitation in the first half of the month. The remainder of the month is forecast to return to warm and dry conditions. Runoff forecasts for the remainder of the season will continue to drop due to the lack of rainfall in April. In addition, the abnormally warm temperatures are shifting the inflows several weeks earlier than is typical, meaning less water will be left to run off later in the spring season.

Lower Colorado Region ( Southern Nev. , Ariz. , Southern Calif. ). The Lower Basin had no precipitation, with temperatures near normal, during the past two weeks. Water demands were slightly above forecast values. Storage in Lake Mead dropped slightly from the last report.

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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 and follow us on Twitter @USBR.

Relevant Link:

National Drought Monitor