Ester characterized the 23-year period in Arizona since 1996 as the region’s “worst ever in 700 years,” in fact. “We’re looking truly at a mega-drought going on right now,” he said.
Jeff Inwood of ADWR provided an update on conditions on the Colorado River.
As widely reported, the odds of a shortage being declared because of low-water levels at Lake Mead remains negligible, Inwood said. That scenario changes dramatically in the years ahead, however.
The chance of “any” level of shortage being declared spikes to better than even odds in 2020, rising to a 68 percent chance in 2022.
Perhaps the most unnerving statistic depicted in Inwood’s presentation, however, was the 12 percent chance by 2023 of a Third Level Shortage being declared on Lake Mead, which brings the system close to the much dreaded “dead pool” state in which water levels are too low to draw anything from the reservoir.
As Inwood observed, this is the first time ever that modeling has depicted a double-digit chance of such a shortage condition.
Dave Weedman of the Arizona Game & Fish Department described the extraordinary ongoing effort to haul water into the wilderness to keep wildlife alive “and to keep them from coming into (urban environs).”
Jeff Whitney of the Arizona Department of Forestry & Fire Management assessed the current-wildfire season, which already includes eight fires of more than 1,000 acres.
Of the 611 wildfires in Arizona thus far in 2018, 604 of them have been human-caused, consuming 68,017 acres. There were just seven “natural fires,” by comparison, which burned a total of just three acres.
Rebecca Davidson of the National Forest Foundation provided the session’s rare uplifting story.
The Foundation, which works on forest restoration with SRP, the Forest Service and other partner organizations has invested through the Northern Arizona Forest Fund over $2.5 million over the last four years on projects in five National Forests in Arizona.
Among her group’s accomplishments: thinning 185,000 trees from 823 acres of forested land and reducing fire risk by 27 percent on 3,500 acres.