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The many conversations in the Colorado River Basin to prepare for different reservoir operations by 12/31/2026

February 21, 2020
by John Weisheit


UNDER CONSTRUCTION

A chronology of the conversations initiated in 2005 for the development of Shortage Criteria Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and finalized as 2007 Interim Guidelines EIS.
  • Note: The Interim Guidelines of 2007 combines Surplus Criteria (finalized in 2001) with Shortage Criteria (initiated in 2005). The original provisions of Surplus Criteria EIS were set to expire in 2016. The combined provisions of 2007 Interim Guidelines will expire on December 31, 2026.

Foundation Documents

INTRODUCTION

2005 - Mid-Year Review. On page 3, in response to increasing aridity, Interior Secretary Gale Norton advises the seven states of the Colorado River Basin (CRB) that:

"...the Department intends to issue a notice through the Federal Register on or before June 15, 2005 to begin work on these matters. At a minimum, we will address the following matters in our upcoming Federal Register notice : 1) Development of Lower Basin Shortage Guidelines, and, 2) Development of Conjunctive Management Guidelines for Lake Powell and Lake Mead . It is my expectation that, regardless of the particular process utilized, the Department will complete these processes by December 2007." (page 3)

2007 - National Academy of Sciences. From the Epilogue:

"This report points to several important scientific findings as they relate to Colorado River hydrology and climate. It also includes findings related to cooperation among the basin states and between scientists and water managers. It recommends that a comprehensive assessment of contemporary urban water management practices and other relevant water supply-demand issues be conducted, and that this assessment consider issues such as implications of agriculture-to-urban water transfers and regional water demand forecasting. In doing so, it defines an action-oriented study that could provide a more systematic blueprint for better managing water across the rapidly-growing and arid Colorado River basin. The cooperation that such a study would entail could also be useful. As the Colorado River basin enters another phase of coping with aridity and drought, future challenges promise to be more exacting than those faced in the past. As such, good scientific information, and good cooperation and communication at all levels, will be more important than ever."

Scripps Institute - here we single-out Scripps Institute and based on time-proven accuracy and consistant appeals to society, since 1957, to initiate climate adaptation programs. For example, the concluding paragraph of this document:
1983 - Effects of a Carbon Dioxide-Induced Climatic Change on Water Supplies in the Western United States.

"Planning and construction of major water-resource systems have a time constant of 30 to 50 years. In the past, these activities have been based on the explicit assumption of unchanging climate. The probable serious economic and social consequences of a carbon dioxide-induced climatic change within the next 50 to 100 years warrant careful consideration by planners of ways to create more robust and resilient water-resource systems that will, insofar as possible, mitigate these effects."

2008 - When Will Lake Mead Go Dry? From the Introduction:
"A water budget analysis shows that under current conditions [2007 Interim Guidelines] there is a 10% chance that live storage in Lakes Mead and Powell will be gone by about 2013 and a 50% chance that it will be gone by 2021 if no changes in water allocation from the Colorado River system are made. This startling result is driven by climate change associated with global warming, the effects of natural climate variability, and the current operating status of the reservoir system. Minimum power pool levels in both Lake Mead and Lake Powell will be reached under current conditions by 2017 with 50% probability. [Note: In 2014 the state of Colorado acknowledged potential hydropower loss at Glen Canyon Dam in this memo and recommended initiating contingency planning as the appropriate response]. While these dates are subject to some uncertainty, they all point to a major and immediate water supply problem on the Colorado system. The solutions to this water shortage problem must be time-dependent to match the time-varying, human-induced decreases in future river flow."

2009 - Sustainable water deliveries from the Colorado River in a changing climate. From the Introduction:

"With either climate-change or long-term mean flows, currently scheduled future water deliveries from the Colorado River are not sustainable. However, the ability of the system to mitigate droughts can be maintained if the various users of the river find a way to reduce average deliveries."

Unversity of Arizona - Pioneers in the assessment of climate regimes in the Holocene Epoch in regards to aridity, pluvials and floods. This includes dendrochronoly (Andrew Ellicott Douglass) and paleoflood hydrology (Victor R. Baker), and other interdisciplenary sciences.

  • To be continued

PART ONE
The Universities

2010 - COLORADO RIVER GOVERANCE INITIATIVE at CU Boulder

2014 - COLORADO RIVER RESEARCH GROUP at CU Boulder

2016 - WATER JUSTICE SYMPOSIUM at CU BOULDER & UW Laramie

2016 - CENTER FOR COLORADO RIVER STUDIES at USU Logan

2017 - CENTER FOR CLIMATE ADAPTATION SCIENCE AND SOLUTIONS at UA Tucson

2018 - CENTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY at UM Missoula

2019 - SCREE at UW Laramie

PART TWO - THE STRUCTURAL DEFICIT

PART THREE - DEMAND MANAGMENT

PART FOUR  - THE GRAND BARGAIN

###

PART FIVE
7D REVIEW BY DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR

Memo (2/7/20) from Bureau of Reclamation about the Section 7.D review of Interim Guidelines, now underway until December of 2020. In his 12/13/2019 remarks at Annual Conference of Colorado River Water Users Association (video), Interior Secretary Bernhardt stated:

• 'Section 7.D of the 2007 Guidelines [the update of 12/10/2007, listed below] calls for Reclamation to initiate work prior to Dec. 31, 2020 on a formal review of the effectiveness of the 2007 Guidelines.'
• 'This provision provides an opportunity to take an objective look at where we've been, and where we are, with our operational rules.'
• 'We want to wrap up this effort, culminating in the 'Section 7.D Report,’ around this time next year."
• 'The report will be a Reclamation product but it will rely on important input from the Basin States, Tribes, NGOs and the public, as the report is developed."

7D DOCUMENTS

Approach

• The Section 7.D Review wll be retrospective; a 'look-back' at past operations and not a
   consideration of future activities.
• The Review will result in a Report that: 1) evaluates the effectiveness of the Guidelines and 2)
   documents our operational experience with the Guidelines.
• Through this Review, we hope to build a solid foundation that informs decision-makers in future
   negotiations and bring partners, stakeholders and the public to a common understanding of
   past operations and their effectiveness.
• Input from the Basin States, Tribes, NGOs, other Federal agencies, and the public will be
   factored into the Review.
• Outreach with Basin States, Tribes, NGOs, and other Federal agencies will occur at 2 primary
   milestones: 1) at the start of the Review, with a discussion of the Report scope, approach, and
   schedule and 2) when the draft Report is ready for review.
• In March, we anticipate holding webinar(s) to present and discuss the Report scope, approach,
   and schedule with the Basin States, Tribes, and NGOs. Additional meetings with groups of tribes
   and individual tribes will follow as requested.
• In late summer, we anticipate holding webinar(s) to provide the draft Report to the Basin States,
   Tribes, and NGOs for review. Received comments will be considered and factored into the draft
   Report as appropriate. Additional meetings with groups of tribes and individual tribes will
   follow as requested.
• We anticipate publishing the final Report near the end of 2020.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION OF 7D REVIEW

###

THE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE FOR 2007 INTERIM GUIDELINES
Combination of two alternatives: Basin States Alternative Conservation Before Shortage Alternative (NGOs)

The purposes of the Preferred Alternative
ROD; Page 4

1. discrete levels of shortage volumes associated with Lake Mead elevations to conserve reservoir storage and provide water users and  managers in the Lower Basin with greater certainty to know when, and by how much, water deliveries will be reduced in drought and other low reservoir conditions;
2. a coordinated operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead determined by specified reservoir conditions that would minimize shortages in the Lower Basin and avoid the risk of curtailments in the Upper Basin;
3. a mechanism to encourage and account for augmentation and conservation of water supplies, referred to as Intentionally Created Surplus (ICS), that would minimize the likelihood and severity of potential future shortages; and the modification and extension of the Interim Surplus Guidelines (ISG) through 2026.

Defining resevoir conditions
ROD; pages 5 & 6

1. A “Normal Condition” exists when the Secretary determines that sufficient mainstream water is available to satisfy 7.5 million acre-feet (maf) of annual consumptive use in the Lower Division states (Arizona, California, and Nevada). If a state will not use all of its apportioned water for the year, the Secretary may allow other states of the Lower Division to use the unused apportionment, provided that the use is authorized by a water delivery contract with the Secretary.
2. A “Surplus Condition”exists when the Secretary determines that sufficient mainstream water is available for release to satisfy consumptive use in the Lower Division states in excess of 7.5 maf annually. The water available for excess consumptive use is surplus and is distributed for use in Arizona, California, and Nevada pursuant to the terms and conditions provided in the ISG. The current provisions of the ISG are scheduled to terminate in 2016. In general terms, the ISG link the availability of surplus water to the elevation of Lake Mead. When Lake Mead is full and Reclamation is making flood control releases, surplus supplies are unlimited. As Lake Mead’s elevation drops, surplus water amounts are reduced, and ultimately eliminated. The ISG also link surplus availability to continued progress by California in reducing its agricultural use of water to benchmarks established in the ISG. If a state does not use all of its apportioned water for the year, the Secretary may allow other Lower Division states to use the unused apportionment, provided that the use is authorized by a water delivery contract with the Secretary.
3. A “Shortage Condition” exists when the Secretary determines that insufficient mainstream water is available to satisfy 7.5 maf of annual consumptive use in the Lower Division states. To date, the Secretary has never made such a (determination, as flow in the Colorado River has been sufficient to meet Normal or Surplus delivery amounts. When making a shortage determination, the Secretary must consult with various parties as set forth in the Consolidated Decree and consider all relevant factors as specified in the LROC, including 1944 Treaty obligations, the priorities set forth in the Consolidated Decree, and the reasonable consumptive use requirements of mainstream water users in the Lower Division states. If a state does not use all of its apportioned water for the year, the Secretary may allow other Lower Division states to use the unused apportionment, provided that the use is authorized by a water delivery contract with the Secretary.

Balancing and Equalization of Storage at Lakes Mead and Powell
ROD; Section 6 on page 49

The Active Storage of water in Lakes Mead and Powell will be balanced before January 1st of each year. Active Storage refers to sufficient reservoir levels to keep hydropower operational. Hydropower production is a contract obligation. The water level below safe hydropower operations is called Inactive Storage. For Lake Mead this level begins at 1045 feet (27% of full capacity) and for Lake Powell this level begins at 3525 feet (35% of full capacity). Note: The ROD does not provide this level of detail. 

Intenionally Created Surplus (ICS)

Page 11 - It is anticipated that the maximum cumulative amount of ICS would be 2.1 maf pursuant to Section XI.D. of this ROD; however, the potential effects of a maximum cumulative amount of ICS of up to 4.2 maf have been analyzed in the Final EIS. This alternative also includes modification and extension of the ISG (Interim Surplus Criteria) through 2026.

IMPLEMENTATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITMENTS (page 16)

Page ?? - Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (LCRMSCP)

PART SIX - THE MISSING ISSUES

  • The ecosystem impacts to Grand Canyon dring an equalization release at Glen Canyon Dam after the large snowmelt of 2011
  • The looming problems of salinity and other reservoir related water quality issues
  • Invasive species such as quagga muscles and New Zealand mudsnails
  • Non-native fish hatcheries and artificial coldwater fisheries below dams
  • The looming problem of reservoir sedimentation that will compromise flood control and water storage
  • Aging and incompetent infrastructure

PART SEVEN - WHAT WE KNOW

  • The planet needs an enforceable international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The world economy is fragile and not sustainable.
  • Consumption of the planet's finite resources are not sustainable.
  • The future for infrastructure will include: rebuild, remove, and relocate.
  • The Colorado River Basin must adapt to increasing water scarcity, since abundant water no longer exists.
  • The Basin's water scarcity problem is related to short-sighted planning and zoning.
  • The present infrastructure designs will not meet the extremes of hydrology.
  • Adaptation to long-term climate includes global warming and global cooling.
  • Monsoons and ENSO cycles are not persistent through time.
  • Traditional infrastructure projects will exasperate scarcity, but innovative projects might.
  • Conserving water is important, but lost when water savings are immediately transferred to new consumptive uses.
  • Legal tools and opportunities already exist to better use, share and manage water supplies.
  • Water dedicated to ecosystem functions improves water quality and joy.
  • Consensus is not possible for all water issues and government leadership must be asserted.

PART EIGHT - RELEASE FROM THE HYDRAULIC TRAP

 

TO BE CONTINUED


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