Despite water elevation levels nearing the lowest low on record, Pathfinder, Seminoe and Alcova reservoirs are expected to fill all contracted water needs in 2013, Bureau of Reclamation area manager Coleman Smith said.

It’s next year that could bring trouble.

“Given what we have in the system, plus our projected increase from the snow that’s up in the hills right now, we should have enough for this year,” Smith said. “What’s going to really hurt us is if we have another year next year like this. That’s still in question.”

Reservoirs are benefiting today from surplus water built up in past years – especially in years of water excess like 2010 and 2011, Smith said. That stored surplus will undoubtedly be tapped as irrigation demands continue into the summer, but there’s no chance of any reservoir being drained dry, according to Smith.

Pathfinder’s most recent 30-year average is 1.2 million acre feet of water. Wednesday, its water level was 425,300 acre feet -- about 35 percent of that average. The reservoir dipped to less than 500,000 acre feet in 1934, Smith said, but Pathfinder’s lowest recorded water level was in 2002, when elevation dipped to 321,000 acre feet.

Though water elevation will increase once snow runoff begins flowing around April, Smith said, Pathfinder’s summer water levels will likely continue to be far from the reservoir’s average. The Bureau of Reclamation expects current snowpack to produce only 34 percent of its average runoff.

Despite fluctuating water levels at Pathfinder, no significant water level changes will be seen at Alcova, whose water levels must be maintained at a consistent level to fuel the Casper Alcova Irrigation District canal.

Reach Benjamin Storrow at 307-266-0639 or benjamin.storrow@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter @bstorrow

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