Rocky Mountain Snowfall Brings Temporary Relief

Rocky Mountain Snowfall Brings Temporary Relief

Historic snowfall across the Rocky Mountains is helping recharge some of the country's biggest reservoirs and provide much-needed breathing room for the oversubscribed Colorado River.

Melting snow flowing into Lake Powell via the Colorado River and its tributaries could hit 177% of average this year, a major boost at a time when lake levels had hit historic lows.

Lake Powell will end 2023 at 3,573 feet above sea level, improving over the past years.

But the boost won't solve the West's water crisis – Lake Powell will be about 40% full this fall, far below what it once held.

The Upper Colorado Basin's snowpack is almost 160% above average, meaning a significant amount of water will flow downstream into the river.

Water managers hope to refill smaller reservoirs in Colorado and Wyoming to prevent them from dropping below the levels necessary to produce hydroelectricity.

Overall, Colorado River flows have declined about 20% compared to historic flows, even with this year's record-breaking snowfall.

Federal officials are developing a plan that would force seven states and Native American tribes to use less water, which could lead to significant cuts in California and Arizona.

Authorities released billions of gallons of water downstream through the Grand Canyon to rebuild beaches and create new fish habitats.

The Glen Canyon Dam was shortened to protect Rainbow Bridge, North America's largest natural rock bridge.

Experts don't expect the reservoirs to ever be full again. Long-term trends show the West is getting drier due to climate change.

The only real solution is to use less water.

Big snow years occur half as often as they used to, while dry years occur 2.5 times as often.

It is being said that the only way to get to a better place is cutting demand.

Lake Powell and Lake Mead hold significantly more water when full. Combined, they are today only about 26% full.

The ongoing challenge is managing the available water resources effectively for future generations.