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Disappointing Runoff Season Leads Feds To Lower Predictions For Lake Mead

lake mead
National Park Service
file | agency
Lake Mead.

Expectations that a big winter would fill up Lake Mead may have been premature.

With record snowpack across the West, forecasts were looking good earlier this year, but new numbers show the reservoir will have significantly less water than initially anticipated.  

“It just really shows the volatility of the system,” Arizona’s Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke said. “It got drier and warmer sooner, so we are not seeing the snow turn into water in the river. We are seeing the snow evaporate away or be used more by vegetation.”

The new estimates still put the lake above the trigger point of 1,075 feet. For next year, the June forecast predicts the water level will be about five feet above the trigger point in 2018 and about one foot for 2019. Buschatzke said the runoff will be about comparable to normal years, but not the blockbuster many had been expecting.

Buschatzke said the state may ramp up conservation efforts in an effort to bolster the lake's water supply and avoid a shortage declaration. 

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.