Special to The Explorer

The Central Arizona Project projects "normal" water supplies over the next two years on the Colorado, Salt and Verde river systems, CAP said in a Thursday release.

El Nino conditions in the Pacific reduced snowpack in the upper Colorado River basin. But El Nino also fueled a wet winter and spring in the Salt, Verde, Agua Fria and Bill Williams watersheds, "resulting in full reservoirs and release of excess water to the Colorado River, reducing the amount of water released from Lake Mead," it continued.

Lake Mead is expected to finish 2010 at an elevation of 1,088 feet above sea level.

In 2012, CAP projects a 15-20 percent probability that Lake Mead will have fallen an additional 13 feet to 1,075 feet, triggering a declaration of "shortage" on the Colorado River.

"Should the Secretary of the Interior declare a shortage, CAP, with the lowest priority to Colorado River water, would have its annual entitlement reduced by 288,000 acre-feet (93 billion gallons), or roughly 18 percent," the release said.

"This level of shortage would not impact CAP deliveries to cities and other high priority customers," said CAP General Manager David Modeer. "Those customers are not likely to see a shortage before the mid-2020s. But, a shortage in 2012 would reduce excess water available for recharge and storage. We've foreseen that potential for many years, and prepared for this by recharging more than 6 million acre-feet of excess Colorado River water since 1985."

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