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2022: The Year of Decision?

January 01, 2022
by John S. Weisheit

By end of Year 2022, we may know if management reforms in the Colorado River Basin (CRB) are going to effective, or not. When water management alternatives were presented in 2005 & 2006 to the Bureau of Reclamation during preparation of the EIS called Shortage Criteria, the seven states promised to prevent shortages by making the reservoir storage system perform more efficiently (Basin States Alternative of 2006). This promise began to falter in Year 2013 (archived), was modified in Year 2019, and then failed in Year 2021. In Year 2007, this unfortunate outcome was expected and documented by cautionary scientists and NGOs.

With total reservoir storage in the CRB currrently at 38% (32% as of July 15, 2022, see table below), a too-close-for-comfort situation has indeed occurred. When the total reservoir system drops below 30 percent, and various hydropower and water contracts begin to default, the water managers will be in a position of defeat. They should feel awful about jumping the guard rails for the law of the river—but they do not. They won't, or can't, turn off their auto-pilot switches for developing new water projects, otherwise known as feeding the boom and bust cycle (1985 - OpEd by Wallace Stegner).

CURRENT RESERVOIR STORAGE LEVELS (Live Storage)
As of July 15, 2022
  • 32% - Total system storage (Upper and Lower Basins)
  • 75% - Flaming Gorge (Green River)
  • 47% - Blue Mesa (Gunnison River)
  • 57% - Navajo (San Juan River)
  • 24% - Lake Powell (Upper Colorado River)
  • 27% - Lake Mead (Lower Colorado RIver)

The public laws designed to reclaim the arid lands of the western United States may yet go down as the largest failed social experiment in American history. How we walk away from this situation is yet to be determined, but this much we do know, the limits of nature have been exceeded and all the expectations of the 1928 Boulder Canyon Project Act became serious miscalculations. As it stands today, these communities dependent on good water governance are in a position of vulnerability, rather than sustainibility. Change must prevail.

Splitting the basin into lower and upper divisions was the biggest blunder of the negotiations for the Colorado River Compact of 1922 and exceeding the limitations of geography and climate is why. Equity and sound planning will not happen in either division until the limitations of this geography and climate are properly defined for what they are, and are not. This is exactly what John Wesley Powell asked of Congress in his professional narratives submitted between 1875 to 1893. Ignoring geography and climate is why system failure exists in the Colorado River Basin. How this is accomplished is actually quite simple: work with nature and demonstrate some respect for the gifts we did not create.

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NEWS AND OPINION ABOUT RESPONSES TO CLIMATE DISRUPTION

THE FEDERAL PROCESS
DROUGHT RESPONSE OPERATIONS AGREEMENT (DROA)

The Upper Basin DROA is a plan to make a plan at the last minute about emergency dam operations at Glen Canyon Dam, and to prevent the cessation of hydroelectric power generation, and how these operations will change the downstream, aquatic ecology of Grand Canyon National Park.

Comments will be accepted through Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, and can be submitted by:

Email at: droa@usbr.gov

Or by mail to:
Bureau of Reclamation
c/o Robert Henrie
125 South State Street, Rm 8100
Salt Lake City, Ut 84138

Public Review Documents

ADDITION INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROPOSED FIX

DROA News and Additional Information (The Fix)
The fix is to increase releases from Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River and to reduce releases from Glen Canyon Dam. The total amount of water that will stabilize the elevation of Lake Powell is 1 million acre-feet, which essentially buys about two months of modified hydroelectric production at Glen Canyon Dam.

The Fix: News in April of 2022

The Fix: News in May of 2022

PROPOSED NEXT STEPS TO BEGIN ON OCTOBER 1, 2022
News

Other Documents from Reclamation

         Dam designs, specifications, velocity currents, vortices and water hammering
  • 1999 - Glen Canyon Dam multi-level intake structure hydraulic model study. Vermeyan. "Type 3 vortices were also observed in the hydraulic model for existing conditions at water surface elevations between 3490 and 3530 ft at a discharge of 4,000 ft3/sec."
  • 2011 - Glen Canyon Dam Penstock Withdrawal Characteristics, 2007-2008; USBR. "The velocity profiles indicate the upper limit of withdrawal is near elevation 3520 ft. The lower limit of withdrawal was estimated to be about elevation 3430 ft."  Note: The volume in the water column between these two elevation points (90 feet) is 4 million acre-feet, which is less than half of the annual average flow that must legally pass by the "Compact Point" near Lee's Ferry, AZ, which is 15 river miles below Glen Canyon Dam.
  • The intake for the delivery of stored river water in Lake Powell to Navajo Nation and City of Page, for municipal and industrial use, is set at elevation 3490 feet; annual consumption is approximately 1,550 acre-feet.
FROM ACADEMIA
Papers and Presentations Stegner Center at the Universtiy of Utah
27th Symposium about the 100th Anniversary of the Colorado River Compact FROM NGOs
Presentations and Comment Letters

THE LATEST SCIENCE
Reclamation, USGS and University Geographers

Supporting science

 

 

 

 


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