Reclamation Makes Changes to Colorado River Operations Due to Drought
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) announced that it will reduce releases from Lake Powell into Lake Mead to its lowest level since filling Lake Powell in the 1960s.
7.48 million acre-feet of water will be released for the water year ending September 2014, down from usual release of 8.23 million acre-feet. The reduction is a result of a historic drought that is the worst 14 year drought period in the last 100 years. This is the first time that the Bureau has had to take action based on the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead.
The change will not result in reduced deliveries from Lake Mead as the Lower Colorado River Basin states and Mexico will receive their full water orders for 2014. Based on the Bureau’s hydrological models there is a very small chance that water deliveries could be reduced in 2015. However, if the drought continues, the chances for reduced deliveries in 2016 increase significantly.
Under the 2007 agreement, if the water levels in Lake Mead drop below 1,075ft the Bureau will reduce deliveries to the Lower Colorado River Basin. The reductions would result in an 11 percent cut for Arizona, a 4 percent cut for Nevada, and a 3.8 percent cut for Mexico; California would still receive its full allocation of water. As the water level drops in Lake Mead additional delivery reductions will occur when the level drops beneath 1,050ft and 1,025ft.