Glen Canyon Dam

(Last Updated: September 29, 2016)

Current Status

High-Flow Experiments (HFE) below Glen Canyon Dam are driven by weather, sediment inputs, and other resource conditions, in accordance with the High-Flow Protocol (Protocol).

A fall HFE can be triggered any time during October-November.  Our best preliminary data and models runs indicate we now have enough sediment input from the Paria River to trigger an HFE at Glen Canyon Dam under the HFE Protocol.  The HFE Technical Team will be meeting to begin planning for a possible HFE and reviewing the status of resources and potential resource impacts.
At this time we do not have a set date for a fall HFE.  Further data collection, modeling, and analysis prior to the end of October may modify the expected duration and/or magnitude of a HFE. A final determination on the timing, magnitude and duration of a potential fall 2016 HFE will likely be made near the end of October. 

The unregulated inflow to Lake Powell in August was 253 kaf (51% of average).  The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in August was 900 kaf.  The end of August elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3,613.55 feet (86 feet from full pool) and 13.1 maf (54% of full capacity), respectively.  The April to July 2016 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell was 6.61 million acre-feet (maf) (92% of average).  The reservoir elevation peaked at 3,621.5 feet on July 9 and is now in its seasonal decline through the fall and winter months.

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 2016 progession of snowpack above Lake Powell, click on Lake Powell Snow Chart.
To view the current inflow forecast relative to past inflows, click on Lake Powell Inflow Forecast

Current Operations

The operating tier for water year 2016, established in August 2015, is the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier.  The April 2016 24-Month Study established that Lake Powell operations will be governed by balancing for the remainder of water year 2016.  Based on the most probable inflow forecast, this September 24-Month Study projects a balancing release of 9.0 maf in water year 2016.  Reclamation will schedule operations at Glen Canyon Dam to achieve as practicably as possible the appropriate total annual release volume by September 30, 2016. 
The operating tier for water year 2017, established in August 2016, is the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier, with an initial water year release volume of 8.23 maf and the potential for an April 2017 adjustment to equalization or balancing releases.  Based on the current forecast, an April adjustment to balancing releases is projected to occur and Lake Powell is currently projected to release 9.0 maf in water year 2017.  This projection will be updated each month throughout the water year. 
In September 2016, the release volume will be approximately 699 thousand acre-feet (kaf), with fluctuations anticipated between approximately 8,500 cfs and 14,500 cfs and consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997).  The anticipated release volume for October is approximately 600 kaf with daily fluctuations between approximately 7,000 cfs and 13,000 cfs.  The expected release for November is 600 kaf with daily fluctuations between approximately 7,000 cfs and 13,000 cfs.  However, the release volume may be adjusted in the event of a High Flow Experiment.
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 currently 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 forecast for water year 2016 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, issued on September 1, 2016, by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume next year will be 9.53 maf (88% of average).  There is significant uncertainty regarding next season’s snow pack development and resulting runoff into Lake Powell.  The forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 6.6 maf (61%) to a maximum probable of 17.0 maf (157%).  There is a 10% chance that inflows could be higher than the current maximum probable forecast and a 10% chance that inflows could be lower than the minimum probable forecast.

Based on the current forecast, the September 24-Month Study projects Lake Powell elevation will end water year 2016 near 3,611.0 feet with approximately 12.83 maf in storage (53% capacity) and water year 2017 near 3,611.0 feet with approximately 12.83 maf in storage (53% capacity).  Note that projections of elevation and storage for water year 2017 have significant uncertainty at this point in the season.  Projections of elevation and storage using the minimum and maximum probable inflow forecast, last updated in August, are 3,589 feet (10.7 maf, 44% capacity) and 3,645 feet (16.6 maf, 68% capacity), respectively.  Under these scenarios, there is a 10 percent chance that inflows will be higher, resulting in higher elevation and storage, and 10 percent chance that inflows will be lower, resulting in lower elevation and storage.  The annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2017 is projected to be 9.0 maf under the minimum and most probable inflow scenarios and 11.9 maf under the maximum probable inflow scenario.  There is a chance that inflows could be higher or lower, potentially resulting in releases greater than 11.9 maf or as low as 8.23 maf in water year 2017.  The minimum and maximum probable scenarios will be updated again in October.

Upper Colorado River Basin Hydrology


The Upper Colorado River Basin regularly experiences significant year to year hydrologic variability.  During the 16-year period 2000 to 2015, 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 16 years.  The period 2000-2015 is the lowest 16-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.51 maf, or 79 percent 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 2000-2015 period has ranged from a low of 2.64 maf (24 percent of average) in water year 2002 to a high of 15.97 maf (147 percent of average) in water year 2011.  The water year 2015 unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell was 10.174 maf (94 percent of average), which, though still below average, was significantly higher than inflows observed in 2012 and 2013 (45 percent and 47 percent of average, respectively).  Under the current most probable forecast, total water year 2016 unregulated inflows to Lake Powell is projected to be 9.64 maf (89 percent of average).

At the beginning of water year 2016, total system storage in the Colorado River Basin was 30.3 maf (51 percent of 59.6 maf total system capacity).  This is nearly the same as the total storage at the beginning of water year 2015 which began at 30.1 maf (50 percent 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 percent of capacity at the beginning of 2000 to a low of 50 percent 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 2017 total Colorado Basin reservoir storage is approximately 29.8 maf (50 percent of capacity).  The actual end of water year storage may vary from this projection, primarily due to uncertainty regarding this season’s runoff and resulting reservoir inflow.  Based on the August minimum and maximum probable inflow forecasts and modeling the range is approximately 27.3 maf (46 percent of capacity) to 34.1 maf (57 percent of capacity), respectively.


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