Glen Canyon Dam / Lake Powell
The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell in September was 511 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (125% of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in September was 604 kaf. The end of September elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3,605.5 feet (94 feet from full pool) and 12.29 million acre-feet (maf) (51% of full capacity), respectively. The reservoir elevation is now declining and is expected to continue to decline until spring 2015.
The water year 2014 unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell was 10.381 maf (96% of average), which was significantly higher than inflows observed in 2012 and 2013 (45% and 47% of average, respectively). The end of water year 2014 elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3,605.5 feet (94 feet from full pool) and 12.29 million acre-feet (maf) (51% of full capacity), respectively. This is 1.4 maf more than the 2013 end of water year storage which was 10.93 maf (45% of capacity), and 14.2 feet higher than the end of 2013 elevation, which was 3591.3 feet.
Releases for water year 2014 totaled 7.480 maf. Pursuant to the Interim Guidelines, Lake Powell operated under the Mid-Elevation Release Tier in 2014. Throughout water year 2014, Reclamation adjusted operations of Glen Canyon Dam to release the appropriate annual volume during 2014 to achieve Mid-Elevation Release Tier objectives as practicably as possible by September 30, 2014.
To view the most current reservoir elevation, content, inflow and release, click on: Lake Powell Data.
To view the most current reservoir elevation projections, click on: Lake Powell Elevation Projections.
To view the 2014 progession of snowpack above Lake Powell, click on Lake Powell Snow Chart.
Potential High Flow Experiment
The Department of the Interior is planning to conduct a potential high flow experimental release from Glen Canyon Dam under the High Flow Protocol the week of November 9, 2014. The protocol calls for conducting more frequent high flow experimental releases from the dam timed to occur following sediment inputs to the Colorado River from downstream tributaries. Sediment inputs and modeling as of October 3rd indicate there is likely currently enough sediment for a 96-hour HFE with a projected magnitude of approximately 37,500 cfs. Seven of the eight hydropower units are anticipated to be available for the HFE. Further data collection, modeling,and analysis prior to the end of October may modify the expected duration the HFE. A final determination on the timing, magnitude and duration of a potential fall 2014 HFE will likely be made near the end of October.
The operating tier for water year 2015 was established in August 2014 as the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier, with an initial water year release volume of 8.23 maf and the potential for an April adjustment to equalization or balancing releases in April 2015. An April adjustment to balancing releases is projected to occur and Lake Powell is currently projected to release 9.0 maf in water year 2015. Reclamation will schedule operations at Glen Canyon Dam to achieve as practicably as possible the appropriate total annual release volume by September 30, 2015.
In October, the release volume will be approximately 600 kaf, with fluctuations between about 7,000 cfs in the nighttime to about 13,000 cfs in the daytime and consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997).
The anticipated release volume for November is 600 kaf with fluctuations for power generation throughout the day consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997). However, the release volume may be adjusted in the event of a High Flow Experiment. Under the High-Flow Protocol, high flow releases are linked to sediment input and other resource conditions below Glen Canyon Dam. Preliminary analysis appears favorable for a high flow experimental release to occur during the week of November 9th, 2014. During the High Flow Experiment, total releases from Glen Canyon Dam at full bypass may reach approximately 37,500 cfs for up to 96 hours. The total experiment, including ramping, could last up to about five and a half days. In the event of a high flow experiment, releases from Glen Canyon Dam prior to and after the high flow experiment are anticipated to fluctuate between about 7,000cfs and 9,000cfs. Further data collection, modeling, and analysis prior to the end of October may modify the expected duration and/or magnitude of the HFE. A final determination on the timing, magnitude and duration of a potential fall 2014 HFE will likely be made near the end of October.
In addition to daily scheduled fluctuations for power generation, the instantaneous releases from Glen Canyon Dam may also fluctuate to provide 40 MW of system regulation. These instantaneous release adjustments stabilize the electrical generation and transmission system and translate to a range of about 1,200 cfs above or below the hourly scheduled release rate. Under system normal conditions, fluctuations for regulation are typically short lived and generally balance out over the hour with minimal or no noticeable impacts on downstream river flow conditions.
Releases from Glen Canyon Dam can also fluctuate beyond scheduled releases when called upon to respond to unscheduled power outages or power system emergencies. Depending on the severity of the system emergency, the response from Glen Canyon Dam can be significant, within the full range of the operating capacity of the power plant for as long as is necessary to maintain balance in the transmission system. Glen Canyon Dam typically maintains 41MW (approximately 1,200 cfs) of generation capacity in reserve in order to respond to a system emergency even when generation rates are already high. System emergencies occur fairly infrequently and typically require small responses from Glen Canyon Dam. However, these responses can have a noticeable impact on the river downstream of Glen Canyon Dam.
Inflow Forecasts and Model Projections
The forecast for water year 2015 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, issued on October 1, 2014, by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume will be 10.63 maf (98% of average based on the period 1981-2010). At this early point in the season, there is significant uncertainty regarding next year’s water supply. The forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 7.4 maf (68% of average) to a maximum probable of 18.6 maf (172% of average). There is 10% chance that inflows could be higher than the maximum probable and a 10% chance they could be lower than the minimum probable.
As determined in the August 2014 24-Month Study, Lake Powell’s operations in water year 2015 will be governed by the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier, with an initial water year release volume of 8.23 maf and the potential for an April adjustment to equalization or balancing releases in April 2015. An April adjustment to balancing releases is projected to occur and Lake Powell is currently projected to release 9.0 maf in water year 2015. This determination will be documented in the 2015 Annual Operating Plan, which is currently in the final stages of development.
Based on the current forecast, the October 24-Month Study projects Lake Powell elevation will end water year 2015 near 3,614 feet with approximately 13.12 maf in storage (54% capacity). Note that projections of elevation and storage have significant uncertainty at this early point in the season, primarily due to uncertainty regarding next season’s snowpack and the resulting inflow to Lake Powell. Under the minimum probable inflow scenario, which was updated in October, the projected end of water year elevation and storage are 3589 feet and 10.71 maf (44% capacity), respectively. Under the maximum probable inflow scenario, which was updated in October, the projected end of water year elevation and storage are 3649 feet and 17.09 maf (70% capacity), respectively. The annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2015 is projected to be 9.0 maf under the minimum and most probable inflow scenarios and 12.1 maf under the maximum probable inflow scenario. There is a 10% chance that inflows will be higher, potentially resulting in higher releases; and 10% chance that inflows will be lower, potentially resulting in lower releases. If inflows are less than the current forecasted minimum probable inflow, the water year 2015 annual release could be as low as 8.23 maf. If inflows are greater than the current forecasted maximum probable inflow, the annual release could be greater than 12.1 maf.
Upper Colorado River Basin Hydrology
The Upper Colorado River Basin regularly experiences significant year to year hydrologic variability. During the 15-year period 2000 to 2014, however, the unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, which is a good measure of hydrologic conditions in the Colorado River Basin, was above average in only 3 out of the past 15 years. The period 2000-2014 is the lowest 15-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.20 maf, or 76% of the 30-year average (1981-2010). (For comparison, the 1981-2010 total water year average is 10.83 maf.) The unregulated inflow during the 2000-2014 period has ranged from a low of 2.64 maf (24% of average) in water year 2002 to a high of 15.97 maf (147% of average) in water year 2011. Under the current most probable forecast, total water year 2015 unregulated inflows to Lake Powell is projected to be 10.63 maf (98% of average).
At the beginning of water year 2015, total system storage in the Colorado River Basin was 30.0 maf (50% of 59.6 maf total system capacity). This is nearly the same as the total storage at the beginning of water year 2014 which began at 29.9 maf (50% of capacity). Since the beginning of water year 2000, total Colorado Basin storage has experienced year to year increases and decreases in response to wet and dry hydrology, ranging from a high of 94% of capacity at the beginning of 2000 to a low of 50% of capacity at the beginning of water year 2014. One wet year can significantly increase total system reservoir storage, just as persistent dry years can draw down the system storage. Based on current inflow forecasts, the current projected end of water year 2015 total Colorado Basin reservoir storage is approximately 30.6 maf (51% of capacity). The actual end of water year storage may vary from this projection, primarily due to uncertainty regarding next season’s snowpack and resulting runoff. Based on October minimum and maximum probable inflow forecasts and modeling the range is approximately 27.4 maf (46%) to 38.1 maf (64%), respectively.
Updated October 10, 2014
Email comments/inquires to: ResourceMgr@usbr.gov