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The Forecast for Lake Mead: Hot and Dry With Plenty of Anxiety

A reckoning arrives every August for the Colorado River and the 40 million people across the West who depend on it. After water managers measure annual inflows and outflows and do their best to estimate future precipitation in places as far-flung as northwestern Wyoming and southwestern New Mexico, they make a pronouncement that once was arcane but has become increasingly prominent — and ominous. Technically, what they announce is the projected elevation of Lake Mead, the Colorado River’s largest reservoir, on Jan. 1 for each of the next two years.

OPINION: Facing the Realities of Limited Water Supplies

In the coming days and weeks, some of the implications of climate change and the need to improve California’s aging water delivery system will become more evident to all parts of the state, none too soon. Old lines in California’s unending water wars could start to shift, as Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration makes clear that the holders of senior water rights, which date to the turn of the last century and before, are not immune to the demands of the environment and the realities of diminishing supplies of what they claim as their water.