Mulroy Seeks Disaster Aid for Colorado River Drought

According to a September 20th Las Vegas Review-Journal article, Southern Nevada Water Authority chief Pat Mulroy thinks the time has come for some federal disaster aid due to the Colorado River drought. Mulroy liken the situation to a slow-moving natural disaster. “This is as much an extreme weather event as hurricane Sandy was on the East Coast,” she said. “Does a drought not rise to the same level as a storm? The potential damage is just as bad.” Mulroy’s comments come as the Colorado wraps up another disappointing water year and approaches another grim milestone: By the end of August, the total amount of water stored on the river is expected to reach its lowest point since Glen Canyon Dam was finished and Lake Powell began to fill in 1966. In the coming days, federal regulators are expected to announce plans to slash the annual release of water from Powell, a move that will accelerate the decline of Lake Mead. The reservoir east of Las Vegas is now expected to shrink almost 25 feet over the next year to a record low, with Lake Powell not far behind. By fall 2014, the surface of Lake Mead could drop to 1,075 feet above sea level, triggering the first federal shortage declaration on the river and prompting water supply cuts for Nevada and Arizona. At this point, Mulroy said, it will take “a major, Noah’s Ark-type event in the next week” to change the upcoming announcement by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the coordinated operation of the two reservoirs. “I’m very worried. I’m expecting the worst,” she said. Under normal conditions, Lake Powell releases at least 8.23 million acre-feet of water a year downstream to Lake Mead for use by Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico. This year’s release is almost sure to be cut to 7.48 million acre-feet to slow the decline of the upstream reservoir. “This is the first time ever that has happened,” Mulroy said. As the following story illustrates, however, perhaps those disaster relief aid funds could be directed to fixing major leaks from Lake Powell.