The construction of Glen Canyon Dam in north-central Arizona also created Lake Powell. Lake Powell serves as a holding tank for the Colorado River Upper Basin States: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
It was another bad year on the Colorado River, and the numbers prove it. … “We had a pretty good year in 2017, with an inflow into Powell of 110 percent of average. But unfortunately we lost that storage and a little bit more in 2018,” said Dan Bunk, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist.
After years of stop-and-go talks, California and two other states that take water from the lower Colorado River are nearing an agreement on how to share delivery cuts if a formal shortage is declared on the drought-plagued waterway. Under the proposed pact, California — the river’s largest user — would reduce diversions earlier in a shortage than it would if the lower-basin states strictly adhered to a water-rights pecking order.
The Colorado River Basin is more than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously” underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of California water industry people.
During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees that agreement can be reached.
The federal agency that had been handling the permitting process for the Lake Powell Pipeline announced Thursday it doesn’t have jurisdiction to handle the entire project on its own. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission submitted an order indicating it would only consider permitting for the hydroelectric facilities proposed for the project, and not the remaining 89 miles of connecting water delivery pipelines, although it would continue as the lead agency in charge of environmental analysis.
The intense drought in the Southwest is threatening Colorado water supplies beyond just the lack of rainfall. State wildlife officials report a record number of boats carrying invasive mussels coming into Colorado from out of state. And the arid summer and winter could be to blame.
Utah has some difficult financial decisions to make as it considers the Lake Powell Pipeline. The governor-appointed Executive Water Finance Board toured Washington County water facilities Tuesday as part of its second and final day of meetings in Southern Utah. Board members are considering the pipeline and its potential costs to both the St. George area and the state as a whole.
Like rust slowly consuming the body of a car, drought has spread upstream on the Colorado River. The river’s Upper Basin – generally north of Lake Powell – has been largely insulated from the 19-year drought afflicting the giant watershed, thanks to the region’s relatively small water demand and heavy snows that bury Colorado’s 14,000ft peaks each winter. But this year, there was no salvation in the snowpack.
Water means life for all the Grand Canyon’s inhabitants, including the many varieties of insects that are a foundation of the ecosystem’s food web. But hydropower operations upstream on the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam, in Northern Arizona near the Utah border, disrupt the natural pace of insect reproduction as the river rises and falls, sometimes dramatically. Eggs deposited at the river’s edge are often left high and dry and their loss directly affects available food for endangered fish such as the humpback chub.
With Lake Mead dropping to levels that could trigger water cutbacks in less than two years, there’s been a lot of talk lately about negotiating a deal to keep the reservoir from falling even further. But in a new report, scientists say the situation is just as worrisome upstream at Lake Powell. The declines there during the past 18 years, they say, also reflect the Colorado River’s worsening “structural deficit.”
Utah wants the federal government to resume its work permitting the Lake Powell Pipeline. Utah water officials in January asked to press pause on the project, worried over jurisdictional questions about whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would continue to act as the permitting agency.
In the past two years, St. George has added nearly 12,000 new residents to a population of approximately 153,000 people, many of them drawn by the city’s mild climate and access to public lands. But all this growth has stoked some rising tension over water and land in this former farm town. … That’s why in 2006, the Washington County Water Conservancy District announced plans to pursue a controversial pipeline connecting Lake Powell to southwest Utah.
Two Western Slope water conservation districts are moving forward with the third phase of a “risk study” exploring how much water might be available to bolster water levels in Lake Powell, and they are doing so without state funding to avoid Front Range opposition to the study. Lake Powell today is half full and dropping and water managers say several more years like 2018 could drain the reservoir, which today contains 12.3 million acre-feet of water.
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.
Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.
A conservation ethic is growing in the nation’s second-driest state. … But Utah’s also pushing forward with a plan to tap more water from the Colorado River to serve two counties in the southwestern corner of the state.
A four-year pilot program that paid ranchers and farmers in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico about $200 per acre-foot of water saved by fallowing fields in order boost water levels in Lake Powell will be put on hold after 2018. On Wednesday, the five members of the Upper Colorado River Commission unanimously passed a resolution to that effect at a board meeting.
With rainfall at record lows, water is an increasingly precious commodity in the deserts of southern Utah. But in the driest reaches of redrock country, one long-waged water war thunders even louder than the rest. Utah legislators and water managers have spent nearly a decade trying to break ground on the 140-mile-long Lake Powell Pipeline, which will carry 77 million gallons of water annually from the Colorado River to nearby Washington and Kane Counties.
Reservoirs that store water along the Colorado River are projected to be less than half full later this year, potentially marking a historic low mark for the river system that supplies water to seven U.S. states and Mexico. Forecasters with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expect the river’s reservoirs — Lakes Mead and Powell among them — to be at a combined 48 percent of capacity by the end of September.
Nowhere is the domino effect in Western water policy played out more than on the Colorado River, and specifically when it involves the Lower Basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona. We are seeing that play out now as the three states strive to forge a Drought Contingency Plan. Yet that plan can’t be finalized until Arizona finds a unifying voice between its major water players, an effort you can read more about in the latest in-depth article of Western Water.
Even then, there are some issues to resolve just within California.
It’s high-stakes time in Arizona. The state that depends on the Colorado River to help supply its cities and farms — and is first in line to absorb a shortage — is seeking a unified plan for water supply management to join its Lower Basin neighbors, California and Nevada, in a coordinated plan to preserve water levels in Lake Mead before they run too low.
If the lake’s elevation falls below 1,075 feet above sea level, the secretary of the Interior would declare a shortage and Arizona’s deliveries of Colorado River water would be reduced by 320,000 acre-feet. Arizona says that’s enough to serve about 1 million households in one year.
A bruising battle between the Central Arizona Project and many states and water users has revitalized the push for a stillborn plan to prepare for more drought on the Colorado River. The original dustup was over whether the CAP was seeking to “game the system” of reservoir operations at lakes Mead and Powell to benefit itself at the expense of the river’s Upper Basin states: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Rivers are drying up, popular mountain recreation spots are closing and water restrictions are in full swing as a persistent drought intensifies its grip on pockets of the American Southwest. … With the region’s water resources strained, a top federal official has resumed pressure on states in the Southwest to wrap up long-delayed emergency plans for potential shortages on the Colorado River, which serves 40 million people in the U.S. and Mexico.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the Colorado River is expected to carry only 43 percent of the average amount of water into Lake Powell, one of two huge reservoirs that store and distribute the river. It’s the fifth-lowest forecast in 54 years.
In early April, federal forecasters came out with a sobering but not surprising prediction for many Colorado River water users after a grim snowpack across much of the Colorado River basin this winter. They projected that as the snow melted and entered the Colorado River system, much less water would flow into Lake Powell this spring than is normal.
Central Arizona water managers, facing backlash from other Colorado River users for allegedly undercutting regional conservation efforts, will visit Utah later this month aiming to smooth relations across a region struggling to agree on a way to save a key water supply.
April is often a time of abundance in the mountains of the American West, when snowpack is at or near its peak, and forecasters work to determine how much runoff will course through our rivers and fill reservoirs later in the season. This year, across much of the West, particularly the Southwest, there’s little in the way of abundance. At Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir in the West, runoff is predicted to be only 43 percent of average.
Colorado River forecasters say the Southwest should brace for the sixth-driest runoff season into Lake Powell since the government erected Glen Canyon Dam there 55 years ago. … River flow into Lake Powell is a key measure of water supplies on the Colorado, a critical water source for millions of people in seven Western states.
A formidable high-pressure ridge has settled off the West Coast, deflecting storms northward in much the same pattern observed in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and though scientists and policy experts debate the definition of “drought,” few would disagree that the American West is in the grip of another extraordinary dry spell.
Lake Powell, which straddles Utah and Arizona, is expected to get 47 percent of its average inflow because of scant snow in the mountains that feed the Colorado River, said Greg Smith, a hydrologist with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Tickets are now on sale for the Water Education Foundation’s April 11-13 tour of the Lower Colorado River.
Don’t miss this opportunity to visit key sites along one of the nation’s most famous rivers, including a private tour of Hoover Dam, Central Arizona Project’s Mark Wilmer pumping plant and the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. The tour also visits the Salton Sea, Slab City, the All-American Canal and farming regions in the Imperial and Coachella valleys.
After asking for fast-track review in 2017, officials in Utah now want federal regulators to delay a decision on whether the state can build its proposed Lake Powell Pipeline. Construction of the billion-dollar-plus pipeline to deliver Colorado River water to communities in southern Utah is already behind schedule and has cost the state more than $30 million.
Lake Mead ends 2017 at elevation 1,082.5, almost two feet above last year at this time. Lake Powell ends the year at 3,623, up more than 20 feet from a year ago. Combined storage in the two primary Colorado River reservoirs ends the year up more than 2 million acre feet.
Rising temperatures from climate change are having a noticeable effect on how much water is flowing down the Colorado River. Read the latest River Report to learn more about what’s happening, and how water managers are responding.
This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water managers and others are trying to face the future.
Sun-scorched desert mesa, 140 miles of it, lies between Lake Powell, the nation’s second-largest reservoir, and Utah’s Washington County, one of America’s driest metropolitan regions. … The [Washington County Water Conservancy] district plans to link the reservoir and the county with one of the longest and most expensive water pipelines ever proposed in the West.
Like many places across the West, Lake Powell seems impossibly large, mythical almost, with its rich red rock canyon walls standing in dramatic juxtaposition to the expanse of cerulean below that seems to stretch on forever. Dramatic is an apt way to describe the second-largest man-made reservoir in America.
Though Utah was farther away from the epicenter of the spill, contaminants from the blowout have been transported through the San Juan River in southeastern Utah to the vast reservoir of Lake Powell, the lawsuit states.
The nation’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead on the Arizona/Nevada border and Lake Powell on the Arizona/Utah border, were brim full in the year 2000. Four short years later, they had lost enough water to supply California its legally apportioned share of Colorado River water for more than five years. Now, 17 years later, they still have not recovered.
Tens of thousands of rafters paddle down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park each year, though most don’t scan the Redwall Limestone canyon sides for bore holes around River Mile 39. But one group of rafters that launched in mid-March was keen to see those holes and the ashy looking sediment piled beneath them. The holes mark the exploratory tinkering of those who were itching to build another dam on the Colorado decades ago.
The federal government said Monday it plans to release an above-average amount of water from a major reservoir in the Southwestern U.S. this year, but it’s less than many hoped after a healthy snow season across much of the West.
Nearly 540 tons of metals – mostly iron and aluminum – contaminated the Animas River over nine hours during a massive wastewater spill from an abandoned Colorado gold mine, the Environmental Protection Agency said Friday in a new report on the 2015 blowout that turned rivers in three states a sickly yellow.
A troublesome invasive species is the quagga mussel, a tiny freshwater mollusk that attaches itself to water utility infrastructure and reproduces at a rapid rate, causing damage to pipes and pumps.
First found in the Great Lakes in 1988 (dumped with ballast water from overseas ships), the quagga mussel along with the zebra mussel are native to the rivers and lakes of eastern Europe and western Asia, including the Black, Caspian and Azov Seas and the Dneiper River drainage of Ukraine and Ponto-Caspian Sea.
The federal government is committing to at least another 20 years of use of a huge Colorado River dam that officials call crucial to states in the West, but that critics say is unstable and should be removed.
[Arizona] Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke is meeting with other Colorado River system users in Las Vegas at the annual Colorado River Water User Association Conference running through Dec. 16. … On Dec. 15, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will unveil the program for management of the Colorado River between Lakes Powell and Mead.
Lake Powell has been called “Jewel of the Colorado” by the federal agency that built it, the Bureau of Reclamation. It’s been a vital force for the intermountain West because of its ability to store vast amounts of water and generate electricity for farmers, cities and towns in 13 states.
Abrahm Lustgarten, a reporter for ProPublica, has written a new story about one of the largest dams in the US, Glen Canyon, and a recent push to open up its gates. It’s a remarkable development, he says, given how important the Colorado River dams — Glen Canyon, with its reservoir, Lake Powell, and Hoover with Lake Meade — have been for the development of the West.
Just as some of the drought-starved states downstream are cutting back, officials in Utah say they plan to file on Monday an official proposal to dip into their rights to the Colorado River via the Lake Powell Pipeline.
Storms brought deep snow to the mountains that feed the vital Colorado River this winter and spring, but the dried-out landscape will soak up some of the runoff before it can reach the river and the 40 million people depending on it for water.
In front of a small audience gathered last week at the Sunbrook event center in St. George, Tom Butine shared again the presentation he’s been making to groups throughout Washington County about the Lake Powell Pipeline. … Simultaneously the fastest-growing state in the nation and the second-driest, Utah is in line to face statewide challenges when it comes to supplying the long-term demand.
Protracted drought over the last four years and nagging uncertainty over how Lake Powell will fare in 2016 are prompting a cash-for-conservation program to test how much water can be saved in the Colorado River.
Documents released by U.S. officials have revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency knew of the potential for a blowout of toxic wastewater from a Colorado mine more than a year before a government cleanup team accidentally triggered such a release earlier this month.
It will take many years and many millions of dollars simply to manage and not even remove the toxic wastewater from an abandoned mine that unleashed a 100-mile-long torrent of heavy metals into Western rivers and has likely reached Lake Powell, experts said.
Colorado and New Mexico declared stretches of the Animas and San Juan rivers to be disaster areas as the orange-colored waste stream made its way downstream toward Lake Powell in Utah after the spill Wednesday at the abandoned Gold King mine near Silverton, Colorado.
Water officials insist a pilot program designed to save Colorado River water and boost Lake Mead and Lake Powell is off to such a promising start that they are already looking to pour more money into it.
The St. George metro area measured as the fifth-fastest growing in the nation according to the latest U.S. Census estimates … Enter the Lake Powell Pipeline, a 140-mile conduit to the much larger Colorado River and at the moment perhaps the most hotly contested project planned along the river’s entire 1,450 miles.
The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday a series of recent storms have dropped up to four times the normal weekly rainfall in some areas of the West. However, three-quarters of the region remains in a long-term drought.
Compared to California, things are better in the Colorado River Basin. However, after 15 years of drought, Lake Powell and Lake Mead are both below 45 percent full with basinwide snowpack below 70 percent as of April 1.
This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, illustrates the water resources available for Nevada cities, agriculture and the environment. It features natural and manmade water resources throughout the state, including the Truckee and Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake and the course of the Colorado River that forms the state’s eastern boundary.
Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.
Redesigned in 2017, this beautiful map depicts the seven Western states that share the Colorado River with Mexico. The Colorado River supplies water to nearly 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the country of Mexico. Text on this beautiful, 24×36-inch map, which is suitable for framing, explains the river’s apportionment, history and the need to adapt its management for urban growth and expected climate change impacts.
The Colorado River provides water to more than 35 million people and 4 million acres of farmland in a region encompassing some 246,000 square miles in the southwestern United States. The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of significant Colorado River events.
A new look for our most popular product! And it’s the perfect gift for the water wonk in your life.
Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the definitive poster that shows the integral role water plays in the state. On this updated version, it is easier to see California’s natural waterways and man-made reservoirs and aqueducts – including federally, state and locally funded projects – the wild and scenic rivers system, and natural lakes. The map features beautiful photos of California’s natural environment, rivers, water projects, wildlife, and urban and agricultural uses and the text focuses on key issues: water supply, water use, water projects, the Delta, wild and scenic rivers and the Colorado River.
The construction of Glen Canyon Dam in 1964 created Lake Powell. Both are located in north-central Arizona near the Utah border. Lake Powell acts as a holding tank for outflow from the Colorado River Upper Basin States: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
The water stored in Lake Powell is used for recreation, power generation and delivering water to the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
This printed issue of Western Water examines how the various stakeholders have begun working together to meet the planning challenges for the Colorado River Basin, including agreements with Mexico, increased use of conservation and water marketing, and the goal of accomplishing binational environmental restoration and water-sharing programs.
This printed issue of Western Water explores the historic nature of some of the key agreements in recent years, future challenges, and what leading state representatives identify as potential “worst-case scenarios.” Much of the content for this issue of Western Water came from the in-depth panel discussions at the Colorado River Symposium. The Foundation will publish the full proceedings of the Symposium in 2012.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the Colorado River drought, and the ongoing institutional and operational changes underway to maintain the system and meet the future challenges in the Colorado River Basin.
This printed issue of Western Water explores some of the major challenges facing Colorado River stakeholders: preparing for climate change, forging U.S.-Mexico water supply solutions and dealing with continued growth in the basins states. Much of the content for this issue of Western Water came from the in-depth panel discussions at the September 2009 Colorado River Symposium.
With interstate discussions of critical Colorado River issues seemingly headed for stalemate, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton stepped in May 2 to defuse, or at least defer, a potentially divisive debate over water releases from Lake Powell.