Glen Canyon Dam / Lake Powell
The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell in May was 1,613 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (69% of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in May was 699 kaf. The end of May elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3,597.3 feet (103 feet from full pool) and 11.49 million acre-feet (maf) (47% of full capacity), respectively. The reservoir elevation is increasing and will continue to increase throughout mid-summer as runoff from snowmelt and precipitation enter the reservoir.
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 2015 progession of snowpack above Lake Powell, click on Lake Powell Snow Chart.
To view the current April to July 2015 inflow forecast relative to past inflows, click on Lake Powell Inflow Forecast
The operating tier for water year 2015 was established in August 2014 as the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier. The April 2015 24-Month Study established that Lake Powell operations will be governed by balancing for the remainder of water year 2015. Under balancing, the contents of Lake Powell and Lake Mead will be balanced by the end of the water year, but not more than 9.0 maf and not less than 8.23 maf shall be released from Lake Powell. Based on the most probable inflow forecast, this June 24-Month Study projects a balancing release of 9.0 maf in water year 2015; the actual release in water year 2015, however, will depend on hydrology in the remainder of water year and will range from 8.23 to 9.0 maf. The projected release from Lake Powell in water year 2015 will be updated each month throughout the remainder of the water year. 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 June, the release volume will be approximately 800 kaf, with fluctuations anticipated between about 10,000 cfs in the nighttime to about 18,000 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 July is 1,050 kaf with daily fluctuations between approximately 12,000 cfs and 20,000 cfs during the first part of the month and 14,000 cfs and 22,000 cfs during the latter part of the month. The expected release for August is 800 kaf with daily fluctuations between approximately 9,000 cfs and 17,000 cfs.
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 27 MW (approximately 800 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 April to July 2015 water supply forecast for unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, issued on June 3, 2015, by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume will be 5.00 maf (70% of average based on the period 1981-2010). Due to significantly above average precipitation in May, the forecast increased significantly (by 2,000 kaf) since last month. There is still uncertainty regarding the runoff and resulting inflow to Lake Powell. The April to July forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 4.45 maf (62% of average) to a maximum probable of 6.00 maf (84% 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, and documented in the 2015 Annual Operating Plan, Lake Powell’s operations in water year 2015 will be governed by the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier. Because the April 2015 24-Month Study projected the end of water year elevation at Lake Powell to be above 3,575 feet and the end of water year elevation at Lake Mead to be below elevation 1,075.0 feet, Lake Powell operations shifted to balancing (Section 6.B.4 of the 2007 Interim Guidelines) for the remainder of water year 2015. Under balancing, the contents of Lake Powell and Lake Mead will be balanced by the end of the water year, but not more than 9.0 maf and not less than 8.23 maf shall be released from Lake Powell.
Based on the June most probable inflow forecast, the annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2015 is projected to be 9.0 maf. Under the minimum probable inflow scenario, last update in April, the water year release is projected to be 8.9 maf. Under the maximum probable inflow scenario, last updated in April, the release is projected to be 9.0 maf. There 10% chance that inflows will be lower than the minimum probable forecast, potentially resulting in lower releases. If inflows are less than the minimum probable forecast, the water year 2015 annual release could be as low as 8.23 maf. If inflows are greater than the forecasted maximum probable inflow, the annual release will be 9.0 maf. The projected release from Lake Powell in water year 2015 will be updated each month throughout the remainder of the water year.
Based on the current forecast, the June 24-Month Study projects Lake Powell’s end of water year 2015 elevation to be near 3,596 feet with approximately 11.34 maf in storage (47% capacity). Projections of elevation and storage still have uncertainty at this point in the season, primarily due to uncertainty regarding runoff and the resulting inflow to Lake Powell. Under the minimum probable inflow scenario, last updated in April, the projected end of water year elevation and storage are 3,574 feet and 9.45 maf (39% capacity), respectively. Under the maximum probable inflow scenario, last updated in April, the projected end of water year elevation and storage are 3,603 feet and 12.02 maf (49% capacity), respectively. Modeling of projected reservoir operations based on the minimum and maximum scenarios will be updated again in August.
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 8.39 maf, or 78% 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. The water year 2014 unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell was 10.381 maf (96% of average), which, though still below average, was significantly higher than inflows observed in 2012 and 2013 (45% and 47% of average, respectively). Under the current most probable forecast, total water year 2015 unregulated inflows to Lake Powell is projected to be 8.54 maf (79% of average), and ranges from a minimum probable inflow of 8.0 maf (74%) and maximum probable inflow of 9.5 maf (88%).
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 2015. 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 28.8 maf (48% of total system capacity). The actual end of water year system storage may vary from this projection, primarily due to uncertainty regarding this season’s runoff and resulting reservoir inflow. Based on the April minimum and maximum probable inflow forecasts and modeling the range is approximately 26.1 maf (44%) to 29.5 maf (50%), respectively.
Updated June 15, 2015
Email comments/inquires to: ResourceMgr@usbr.gov