Water release from Lake Powell Glen Canyon dam delayed due to drought
The federal government announced on Tuesday that it will delay the release of water from one of the Colorado River’s major reservoirs, an unprecedented action that will temporarily address declining reservoir levels fueled by the West’s historic drought. .
The decision will keep more water in Lake Powell, the reservoir at Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona, instead of releasing it downstream from Lake Mead, the river’s other main reservoir.
The actions come as water levels in both reservoirs have reached their lowest levels on record. The water level of Lake Powell is currently at an elevation of 3,523 feet. If the level drops below 3,490 feet, the so-called minimum power pool, the Glen Canyon Dam, which supplies electricity to about 5.8 million customers in the western interior, will no longer be able to generate electricity. ‘electricity.
The delay is expected to protect dam operations for the next 12 months, officials said at a press briefing Tuesday, and will conserve nearly 500,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell. Under a separate plan, authorities will also release about 500,000 acre-feet of water into Lake Powell from Flaming Gorge, a reservoir located upstream on the Utah-Wyoming border.
Officials said the actions will help conserve water, protect the dam’s ability to generate hydroelectricity and give officials more time to figure out how to operate the dam at lower water levels.
“We’ve never taken this step before in the Colorado Basin,” Interior Department Assistant Secretary Tanya Trujillo told reporters on Tuesday. “But the conditions we see today, and what we see on the horizon, demand that we take quick action.”
Last year, federal authorities ordered the first-ever water shutoffs for the Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to more than 40 million people and some 2.5 million acres of cropland in the West. . The cuts have primarily affected farmers in Arizona, who use nearly three-quarters of the available water supply to irrigate their crops.
In April, federal water managers warned the seven states that draw on the Colorado River that the government was considering taking emergency action to deal with falling water levels at Lake Powell.
Later that month, state officials sent a letter to the Interior agreeing to the proposal and asking that temporary reductions in Lake Powell discharges be implemented without triggering further water shutoffs in any of the states.
The mega-drought in the western United States fueled the region’s driest two decades in at least 1,200 years, with conditions likely to continue through 2022 and persist for years. Researchers have estimated that 42% of drought severity is attributable to human-caused climate change.
“Our climate is changing, our actions are responsible for it, and we must take responsible action to respond to it,” Trujillo said. “We must all work together to protect the resources we have and the dwindling Colorado River water supply that our communities depend on.”