#ColoradoRiver conditions are worsening quicker than expected. Feds prepare to step in — The #Denver Post #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Conrad Swanson). Here’s an excerpt:

Without enough snow this winter, the water level at Lake Powell — the country’s second-largest reservoir — will drop below a critical level by next November, according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Below that point, the Glen Canyon Dam will no longer be able to generate electricity and experts worry whether conditions will worsen to the point that the structure will no longer be able to send water downstream at all. Conditions on the Colorado River are worsening quicker than expected. The seven states in the river basin made little progress saving water over the summer and Colorado is heading into its third La Niña winter in a row, likely indicating below-average snowpack. A worst-case scenario, once considered only as a hypothetical, now presents a very real threat.

“It’s going to be ugly,” Mark Squillace, a water law professor at the University of Colorado, said. “The bottom line is there just isn’t going to be enough water available.”

The path forward for Reclamation, the states and dozens of Native American tribes is narrowing, Brad Udall, a water and climate scientist with Colorado State University, said, calling the implications “beyond serious.” If the federal government comes in too strong, requiring massive cuts to water use, the entire scheme could devolve into a morass of expensive and time-consuming lawsuits, Udall said. Not strong enough and the river dwindles further, endangering the way of life for more than 40 million people and an estimated $1.4 trillion chunk of the national economy. Reclamation officials announced Friday [October 28, 2022] that they will consider whether to turn down the faucet for downstream states next year and in 2024. A draft plan should be ready by spring.

“The Interior Department continues to pursue a collaborative and consensus-based approach to addressing the drought crisis affecting the West,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a news release. “At the same time, we are committed to taking prompt and decisive action necessary to protect the Colorado River and all those who depend on it.”

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 3, 2022 via the NRCS.

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