Reclamation will release 7.48 million acre-feet (lowest since first fill) from Lake Powell this season #ColoradoRiver

Lake Powell
Lake Powell

Here’s the release from Reclamation via the Lake Powell Chronicle:

As part of its ongoing management of Colorado River reservoirs, the Bureau of Reclamation has determined that, based on the best available data projections of Lake Powell and Lake Mead reservoir elevations, under the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead (2007 Interim Guidelines) a release of 7.48 million acre-feet (maf) from Lake Powell is required in water year 2014 (Oct. 1, 2013 – Sept. 30, 2014).

An annual release of 7.48 maf is the lowest release since the filling of Lake Powell in the 1960s. Lake Mead is projected to decline an additional eight feet during 2014 as a result of the lower Lake Powell annual release; however, Lake Mead will operate under normal conditions in calendar year 2014, with water users in the Lower Colorado River Basin and Mexico receiving their full water orders in accordance with the 2007 Interim Guidelines and the 1944 Treaty with Mexico.

The 2007 Interim Guidelines Record of Decision was signed by the Secretary of the Interior after extensive consultation with the seven Colorado River Basin states, Native American tribes, federal agencies, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders and interested parties. The guidelines were adopted to coordinate reservoir management strategies and address annual operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead, particularly under low reservoir conditions.

“This is the worst 14-year drought period in the last hundred years,” said Upper Colorado Regional Director Larry Walkoviak. “Reclamation’s collaboration with the seven Colorado River Basin states on the 2007 Interim Guidelines is proving to be invaluable in coordinating the operations of the reservoirs and helping protect future availability of Colorado River water supplies.”

Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Regional Director Terry Fulp also pointed to the variability in the system.

“With a good winter snowpack next year, the outlook could change significantly as it did in 2011, but we also need to be prepared for continuing drought,” he said. “Currently the longer-term projections from Reclamation’s hydrologic models show a very small chance of lower basin delivery shortages in 2015, with the first significant chance of reduced water deliveries in the lower basin in 2016. These projections will be updated monthly and will reflect changes in weather and the resulting hydrology.”

Updated monthly, Reclamation’s 24-Month Study is an operational report that provides projected reservoir operations for all major system reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin for the next two years. The August 24-Month Study is available on the Reclamation websites for the Upper and Lower Colorado regions:

Upper Colorado Region: http://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/studies/index.html

Lower Colorado Region: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g4000/24mo/index.html

By planning ahead for varying reservoir levels, the 2007 Interim Guidelines provide Colorado River users, especially those in the lower basin states of Arizona, Nevada and California, with a greater degree of certainty about annual water deliveries. The 2007 Interim Guidelines also define the reservoir levels that would trigger delivery shortages and specify those reduced delivery amounts in the lower Colorado River Basin once Lake Mead reaches certain elevations. Information about the 2007 Interim Guidelines is available at http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/strategies.html.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

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