Drought news: Many Colorado eyes are watching the southwestern US drought #COdrought #ColoradoRiver

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado officials are worried that declining levels in reservoirs on the Colorado River could have an impact within the state.

“The storage in Lake Powell is going down, after 2012-13, two of the driest years on record,” said John McClow, a Gunnison attorney who represents the state on compact matters.

McClow gave an overview of the Colorado River Compact to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Thursday, saying that good snowpack could provide much-needed moisture to stop the decline of Lake Powell levels at least for a year. Under the compact, upper basin states — Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — have an obligation to deliver a certain amount of water to lower basin states — Arizona, California and Nevada. While the compact is open to interpretation, the upper basin state has never failed to deliver the required amount. But if the drought of the last decade continues, there is a danger that there could be a shortfall sometime in the next decade.

“That’s not a prediction, but a worst-case scenario,” McClow said.

To prepare for that, the upper basin states have held strategy meetings that would use either coordinate releases from Flaming Gorge, Navajo and Blue Mesa reservoirs to provide water to Lake Powell, as intended under congressional laws surrounding the compact, or curtail use within the states.

While the amount of water delivered remains a numbers game, the political reality could be that Congress would not turn off water to California or Las Vegas.

In 2007, all seven states agreed to a plan to share shortages. It requires balancing Lake Powell and Lake Mead. However, the two lakes’ combined storage is at its lowest point since 1968.

The water level in Lake Mead is approaching the point where it will drop below its second intake, which could trigger releases from Lake Powell.

Las Vegas is spending $800 million to tunnel under Lake Mead to build its third intake, but that won’t be completed until at least 2015.

If Lake Powell levels drop, Colorado and the other basin states could be affected by the loss of hydropower generation. While 5.8 million people receive power from Lake Powell, the revenues from that power also help fund endangered fish programs, McClow said.

Leave a Reply