There are a couple of curious things to note about Lake Powell. First, it’s at its lowest level for this date since 2005. Outflows from the lake are around the historic average.
Second, the snow pack above Lake Powell is well above normal for this time of year.
Unlike Arizona, this year’s storm track has hit the Upper Colorado River Basin. If this year ends up similar to 2011, lake levels could recover considerably. In 2011, level lake increase by roughly 60 feet. We are still well before the peak in snowfall.
Here is the Bureau of Reclamation’s outlook for this summer. I have highlighted the max, likely and min lake level projections.Based on the current forecast, the February 24-Month study projects Lake Powell elevation will peak near approximately 3,611 ft next summer and end the water year near 3,604 feet with approximately 12.16 maf in storage (50% capacity). Note that projections of elevation and storage have significant uncertainty at this point in the season, primarily due to uncertainty regarding the season’s total snowpack and the resulting inflow to Lake Powell. Under the minimum probable inflow scenario, updated in January, the projected summer peak is 3,592 ft and end of water year storage is 9.7 maf (40% capacity). Under the maximum probable inflow scenario, updated in January, the projected summer peak is 3,631 ft and end of water year storage is 15.0 maf (62% capacity). There is a 10 percent chance that inflows will be higher, resulting in higher elevation and storage, and 10 percent chance that inflows will be lower, resulting in lower elevation and storage. The minimum and maximum probable model runs will be updated again in April. The annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2014 is projected to be 7.48 maf under all inflow scenarios.
Seems odd to be thinking about Lake Powell in February, but the weather has been so nice. That could all change. Here is a new graphic from the National Weather Service for spring precipitation following dry winters. Near normal spring amounts seem to the highest likelihood. Currently, the weather pattern seems to be shifting across North America. The Eastern US is going to see a warming trend. There is a strong storm for Arizona in the long-range outlook.