Central Arizona Project operators and planners keep a close watch on conditions in the Colorado River watershed. The status of those watersheds helps illuminate the near-term future of our Colorado River water supplies.

According to the Bureau of Reclamation, current conditions on the Colorado River indicate a 97% probability that more than two and a half million acre-feet (more than 850 billion gallons) of additional river water will flow from Lake Powell into Lake Mead in 2011. The higher than normal release from Powell would raise water levels in Lake Mead about 25 feet, and delay a potential shortage for several years.

"Compared to where we were a few months ago," stated CAP General Manager David Modeer, "this is really welcome news. We were looking at the possibility of a shortage as early as 2012, which would have caused CAP to lose access to nearly 20% of our Colorado River supply. With the larger projected release in 2011, it is highly unlikely we would see a shortage before at least 2016."

The primary driver of the Bureau's prediction is the better than average snowpack in the Rocky Mountains. Currently, snowpack in the Colorado River watershed above Lake Powell is about 112% of the historical average. The National Weather Service anticipates runoff into Lake Powell will be 16% higher than normal this summer.

"We certainly hope that the extra water is released into Lake Mead," commented CAP Board President Pam Pickard. "In the meantime, CAP will continue its efforts to prepare for the future by recharging excess water, working with partners to protect water levels in Lake Mead, and pursuing additional water resources."

CAP is the steward of central Arizona's Colorado River water entitlement and a collaborative leader in Arizona's water community. The 336-mile-long CAP system brings about 1.6 million acre-feet of renewable Colorado River water to its customers -- cities, businesses, agriculture and Indian communities -- in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties. An acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons.