UTAH DROUGHT

Federal officials weigh prospect of reducing water to Colorado River to ensure Glen Canyon Dam’s functionality

Apr 14, 2022, 8:40 AM | Updated: 9:36 am
FILE - A white band of newly exposed rock is shown along the canyon walls at Lake Powell at Antelop...
FILE - A white band of newly exposed rock is shown along the canyon walls at Lake Powell at Antelope Point Marina near Page, Ariz., on July 30, 2021. It highlights the difference between today's lake level and the lake's high-water mark. Federal officials sent seven western states a letter this week warning them that they're considering cutting the amount of water that flows through the Colorado River to the Southwest to maintain Lake Powell and prevent it from shrinking to a point at which Glen Canyon Dam could no longer produce hydropower. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal officials say it may be necessary to reduce water deliveries to users on the Colorado River to prevent the shutdown of a huge dam that supplies hydropower to some 5 million customers across the U.S. West.

Officials had hoped snowmelt would buoy Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border to ensure its dam could continue to supply power. But snow is already melting, and hotter-than-normal temperatures and prolonged drought are further shrinking the lake.

The Utah Angle: Lake Powell water levels could mean trouble for Southern Utah’s electricity

The Interior Department has proposed holding back water in the lake to maintain Glen Canyon Dam’s ability to generate electricity amid what it said were the driest conditions in the region in more than 1,200 years.

“The best available science indicates that the effects of climate change will continue to adversely impact the basin,” Tanya Trujillo, the Interior’s assistant secretary for water and science wrote to seven states in the basin Friday.

Trujillo asked for feedback on the proposal to keep 480,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell — enough water to serve about 1 million U.S. households. She stressed that operating the dam below 3,490 feet (1,063 meters), considered its minimum power pool, is uncharted territory and would lead to even more uncertainty for the western electrical grid and water deliveries to states and Mexico downstream.

The Utah Angle: Lake Powell at record low water level, could drop further

In the Colorado River basin, Glen Canyon Dam is the mammoth of power production, delivering electricity to about 5 million customers in seven states — Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. As Lake Powell falls, the dam becomes less efficient. At 3,490 feet, it can’t produce power.

If levels were to fall below that mark, the 7,500 residents in the city at the lake, Page, and the adjacent Navajo community of LeChee would have no access to drinking water.
The Pacific Northwest, and the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico and Texas are facing similar strains on water supplies.

Lake Powell fell below 3,525 feet (1,075 meters) for the first time ever last month, a level that concerned worried water managers. Federal data shows it will dip even further, in the most probable scenario, before rebounding above the level next spring.

The Utah Angle: Leaders in Davis County tell residents to prepare for another Utah drought

If power production ceases at Glen Canyon Dam, customers that include cities, rural electric cooperatives and tribal utilities would be forced to seek more expensive options. The loss also would complicate western grid operations since hydropower is a relatively flexible renewable energy source that can be easily turned up or down, experts say.

“We’re in crisis management, and health and human safety issues, including production of hydropower, are taking precedence,” said Jack Schmidt, director of the center for Colorado River Studies at Utah State University. “Concepts like, ‘Are we going to get our water back’ just may not even be relevant anymore.”

The potential impacts to lower basin states that could see their water supplies reduced — California, Nevada and Arizona — aren’t yet known. But the Interior’s move is a display of the wide-ranging functions of Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam, and the need to quickly pivot to confront climate change.

Lake Powell serves as the barometer for the river’s health in the upper basin, and Lake Mead has that job in the lower basin. Both were last full in the year 2000 but have declined to one-fourth and one-third of their capacity, respectively, as drought tightened its grip on the region.

Water managers in the basin states — Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado — are evaluating the proposal. The Interior Department has set an April 22 deadline for feedback.
___
Associated Press writers Sam Metz in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

Today’s Top Stories

Utah Drought

Low water levels are plaguing the Great Salt Lake for several summers now....
Dan Bammes

Lake Powell is sitting low; this group is trying to raise the water levels

Lake Powell has been drying up for years. and one group wants its levels go up by 60 feet. But that's not how a 2017 drought plan had it mapped.
2 days ago
Multiple Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints buildings are featured in the photo. The churc...
Michele Rowe

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks for ways to reduce water usage across it’s properties

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement today about the steps they are taking to help with the drought.
8 days ago
Lynndyl has run out of water...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

This Southern Utah town has run out of water in the middle of June

An entire Utah town in Millard County is now out of water on June 16. It's because of a pump issue.
14 days ago
fireworks Utah...
Curt Gresseth

Is it time to ban fireworks in Utah? For some, the answer is yes.

A recent survey found that 40% of Utahns who were asked about banning fireworks this year said yes.
22 days ago
golf course in Spanish Fork. Amid the drought it went through an update...
Curt Gresseth

Spanish Fork golf course tees off against Utah’s drought

The mayor of Spanish Fork describes the changes made at the city's Oaks Golf Course to save water during Utah's historic and ongoing drought.
30 days ago
A black bear...
Adam Small

Utah drought making encounters with black bears more likely

Black bears in Utah might be easier to run into this year as the drought kills off the plants that make up most of their diet.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Federal officials weigh prospect of reducing water to Colorado River to ensure Glen Canyon Dam’s functionality