When will Lake Mead go dry?

Authors


Abstract

[1] A water budget analysis shows that under current conditions there is a 10% chance that live storage in Lakes Mead and Powell will be gone by about 2013 and a 50% chance that it will be gone by 2021 if no changes in water allocation from the Colorado River system are made. This startling result is driven by climate change associated with global warming, the effects of natural climate variability, and the current operating status of the reservoir system. Minimum power pool levels in both Lake Mead and Lake Powell will be reached under current conditions by 2017 with 50% probability. While these dates are subject to some uncertainty, they all point to a major and immediate water supply problem on the Colorado system. The solutions to this water shortage problem must be time-dependent to match the time-varying, human-induced decreases in future river flow.

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