From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Joe Napolitan):
During a meeting on June 21, members of the San Juan Water Conservation District (SJWCD) board discussed local implications of historically low water levels in Lake Powell.
“The article that came out today just said that there’s a threshold that Lake Powell has to reach for the CWCB (Colorado Water Conservation Board) to enact some legal movements,” said board member Joe Tedder. “Apparently we’re going to hit that, probably by the end of June.”
The threshold Tedder referred to is outlined in the Colorado River Drought Contingency Management and Operations Plan (DCP).
The plan states that if Lake Powell reaches a surface elevation of 3,525 the upper-basin states and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) shall take action to send more water to Lake Powell from reservoirs upstream.
According to the USBR, the surface elevation of Lake Powell was 3,559 feet on July 4. Aside from the drought in 2005, such low water levels have not been seen since the 1960s, when Lake Powell was still filling after the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963.
Low water levels in Lake Powell have implications for the Colorado River Basin, which includes the San Juan River and Pagosa Springs.
According to a report by the Pacific Institute in 2013, roughly 70 percent of the Colorado River Basin’s water is used to irrigate nearly 5.7 million acres of land for agriculture. The USBR estimates that more than 40 million people depend on the river to support their lives.
Another report prepared by Southwick Associates in 2012 esti- mated that 5.6 million people over the age of 18 use the Colorado River for recreational purposes each year.
The same report totals the value of all spending resulting from such recreational expenditures to be $25.6 billion, generating $1.6 billion in federal tax dollars…
SJWCD board member Doug Secrist outlined provisions in the DCP, stating that in an effort to stabilize Lake Powell, water would be reallocated from reservoirs up- stream, otherwise referred to as initial units…
“I can tell you that PAWSD is senior to all those reservoirs, so PAWSD water is pretty well protected,” SJWCD Board of Directors President Al Pfister said of the Pagosa Area Wa- ter and Sanitation District. “But it is a very intricate and interwoven issue.”
The National Integrated Drought Information System reports that Archuleta County is experiencing its driest year in over a century, and that the initial units from which water is planned to be supplied to Lake Powell are already low in volume and inflow…
The USBR predicts that the preliminary unregulated flow which supplies the Navajo Reservoir, which presently has a pool elevation 27 feet below the 1981-2010 average, will be 36 percent of the average for the month of July.
For Blue Mesa, which presently rests 43 feet below the 1981-2010 av- erage, is projected to have an inflow volume 40 percent of average.
Flaming Gorge, which rests only 3 feet below its average pool eleva- tion, is projected to have an unregu- lated inflow volume of 42 percent of average.