Researchers expect ‘underperforming’ spring runoff for Colorado River

By Jennifer Yachnin | 03/13/2024 01:37 PM EDT

The West got snow this winter, but not enough to give reservoirs along the drought-stricken river a big boost.

The Arizona intake towers (left) and Nevada Intake Towers on the upstream side of the Hoover Dam.

(From left) The Arizona and Nevada intake towers on the upstream side of the Hoover Dam are shown on June 15, 2021, in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona. Ethan Miller/AFP via Getty Images

Despite a season of average snowfall, major reservoirs on the Colorado River Basin are unlikely to see a significant boost from spring snowmelt in coming months, as dry soil soaks up water that would otherwise flow to storage facilities, according to federal and state researchers.

The projections are based on a trio of factors, including a drier-than-average El Niño winter, a poor monsoon season across the Southwest last year and existing dry soil conditions.

“The ample snowpack that we do have with this normal [precipitation] will be a little less efficient in translating to things like reservoir recharge and streamflow come springtime,” said John Meyer, assistant state climatologist at the Utah Climate Center.


Meyer outlined expected runoff conditions Tuesday at an event organized by NOAA and the National Integrated Drought Information System.