- Colorado River Basin
Colorado River Basin
News Release – May 22, 2023
Biden-Harris Administration Announces Historic Consensus System Conservation Proposal to Protect the Colorado River Basin
Seven Basin states agree on analyzing consensus-based approach proposed by the Lower Basin
Funding from President Biden's Investing in America agenda combined with voluntary commitments will conserve 3-million-acre feet of water through 2026
WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today announced significant new developments in the Biden-Harris administration's efforts to protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System now and into the future.
As part of the Department's continued efforts to address ongoing severe drought conditions and a changing climate in the Colorado River Basin, representatives from the seven Colorado River Basin states have agreed to the submission of a Lower Basin, consensus-based system conservation proposal. They are requesting the proposal be fully analyzed as an action alternative under the Bureau of Reclamation's draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), published last month. Read More
News Release – Feb. 2, 2023
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Supports $580 Million Investment to Fulfill Indian Water Rights Settlements
Funding will help develop infrastructure projects that fulfill the terms of Tribal water settlements
WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today announced a nearly $580 million allocation to continue fulfilling settlements of Indian water rights claims using funding from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Reclamation Water Settlements Fund. Read More
News Release – Dec. 2, 2022
Reclamation makes operational adjustments from Lake Powell to protect low level critical elevations
SALT LAKE CITY – The Bureau of Reclamation has begun monthly operational adjustments with reduced releases from Glen Canyon Dam under the Drought Response Operations Agreement. The adjusted releases are designed to help protect critical elevations at Lake Powell until the spring runoff materializes. Read More
News Release – Oct. 12, 2022
Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Steps for Drought Mitigation Funding from Inflation Reduction Act
New drought mitigation funding opportunities to improve and protect the long-term sustainability of the Colorado River System.
WASHINGTON — A newly created Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program, funded with an initial allocation through the Inflation Reduction Act and managed through the Bureau of Reclamation, will help increase water conservation, improve water efficiency, and prevent the System's reservoirs from falling to critically low elevations that would threaten water deliveries and power production. Read More
Reclamation's Upper and Lower Colorado Basin Regions generate a set of standard projections of Colorado River Basin system conditions at regular intervals to determine reservoir operations and assist with planning. These projections focus on annual to mid-term projections, with monthly updates to two-year projections, and updates to projections beyond two years occurring several times throughout the year.
More information about Reclamation's current projections can be found below.
- 24-Month Study Projections (updated monthly)
- 2-Year Probabilistic Projections (updated monthly)
- 5-Year Probabilistic Projections (updated typically three times per year)
Annual Operating Plans for Colorado River Reservoirs
Each year's Annual Operating Plan for Colorado River Reservoirs reports on both the past operations of the Colorado River reservoirs for the completed year as well as projected operations and releases from these reservoirs for the current (i.e., upcoming) year.
Annual Operating Plans are developed in accordance with Section 602 of the Colorado River Basin Project Act Link is to a PDF file (Public Law 90-537); the Criteria for Coordinated Long-Range Operation of Colorado River Reservoirs Pursuant to the Colorado River Basin Project Act of September 30, 1968, as amended Link is to a PDF file, promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior; and Section 1804(c)(3) of the Grand Canyon Protection Act (Public Law 102-575).
AOPs are prepared in consultation with representatives of the Governors of the seven Colorado River Basin States, Indian Tribes, Upper Colorado River Commission, appropriate Federal agencies, and others interested in Colorado River operations.Return to Top
Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead
In 2005, Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, Reclamation began public scoping meetings and preparing an EIS for the development of Lower Colorado River Basin Shortage Guidelines and Coordinated Management Strategies for Operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead Under Low Reservoir Conditions. The Secretary of the Interior has directed Reclamation to develop additional Colorado River management strategies to address operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead under low reservoir conditions by 2007.
These operational guidelines provided Colorado River water users and managers in the United States a greater degree of certainty about how the two large reservoirs on the Colorado River will be operated under low water conditions, and when – and by how much – water deliveries will be reduced to the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California, and Nevada in the event of drought or other low reservoir conditions. In a separate, cooperative process, Reclamation worked through the State Department to consult with Mexico regarding potential water delivery reductions to Mexico under the 1944 Treaty with the United States.
A ROD was signed by the Secretary in December 2007 that implements the interim operational guidelines that will be in place through 2026. The key components of the guidelines are:
- a shortage strategy for Lake Mead and the Lower Division states,
- coordinated operations of Lakes Powell and Mead through a full range of operations,
- a mechanism for the creation and delivery of conserved system and non-system water in Lake Mead (Intentionally Created Surplus), and
- the modification and extension of the existing Interim Surplus Guidelines.
Consistent with Section XI.G.7.D. of the 2007 Interim Guidelines Record of Decision, Reclamation completed a review of the implementation of the Guidelines (7.D. Review). The review is a retrospective look at past operations and actions under the 2007 Interim Guidelines and is not a consideration of future activities. Through this 7.D. Review, Reclamation built a solid technical foundation that informs future consideration of operations and brings partners, stakeholders, and the public to common understanding of past operations and their effectiveness. The 7.D. Review was completed in December 2020.
Reclamation anticipates formally starting the National Environmental Policy Act process to develop the post-2026 operations with the beginning of the formal scoping process in early 2023. As the focus shifts to the declining storage, increasing risk of water shortages in the Colorado River Basin and short-term response actions, Reclamation recognizes the importance of simultaneously planning for the longer-term. The goal is to develop a robust public involvement approach that will appropriately include meaningful and timely engagement with the Basin States, tribes, partners, and stakeholders to ensure their objectives and priorities are considered.Return to Top
Final Report of the Review of the 2007 Interim Guidelines (7.D. Review)
Reclamation released the Final Report of the 7.D. Review on December 18, 2020.
Through the 7.D. Review, Reclamation intended to bring partners, stakeholders, and the public to a common understanding of past operations under the 2007 Interim Guidelines and their effectiveness. The goals of the Review were to: evaluate the effectiveness of the Guidelines and document Reclamation's operational experience since the Guidelines were adopted. The 7.D. Review Report will be one of many references and sources of input considered when work begins to determine Lake Powell and Mead operations after 2026.
The Final Report concluded:
- The 2007 Interim Guidelines were largely effective as measured against both their stated purpose and common themes as provided in the 2007 Record of Decision.
- Increasing severity of the drought necessitated additional action to reduce the risk of reaching critically low elevations in Lakes Powell and Mead.
- Experience over the past 12 years provides important considerations:
- enhanced flexibilities and transparency for water users
- expanded participation in conservation and Basin-wide programs
- increased consideration of the linkage that occurs through coordinated reservoir operations, particularly with respect to the inherent uncertainties in model projections used to set operating conditions
- demonstrated need for more robust measures to protect reservoir levels
The Final Report is available here:
- Final Report, Review of the Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead Link is to a PDF file
- Final Report, Appendix A – Operational Documentation for Lake Powell and Lake Mead Operations Under the Colorado River 2007 Interim Guidelines Years 2008 to 2019 Link is to a PDF file
Click here for more info on the development of the 7.D. Review & ReportReturn to Top
Operating under the 2007 Interim Guidelines
The 2007 Interim Guidelines are in place from 2008 through December 31, 2025 (through preparation of the 2026 Annual Operating Plan). Reclamation’s Upper and Lower Colorado Basin Regions manage the operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead pursuant to the Record of Decision for the 2007 Interim Guidelines Link is to a PDF file. The coordinated operational diagram below outlines the coordinated reservoir operations of both reservoirs at different pool elevations. Several implementing agreements were executed concurrent to the issuance of the 2007 ROD, related to forbearance and the creation and delivery of ICS by Lower Basin contractors, as well as subsequent agreements for System Efficiency ICS projects.
Development of the 2007 Interim Guidelines
Spurred by the ongoing multi-year drought, decreasing system storage, and growing demands for Colorado River water, in May 2005, the Secretary directed Reclamation to develop additional strategies for improving coordinated management of the reservoirs of the Colorado River system.
Each year, the Secretary is required to declare the Colorado River water supply availability conditions for the Lower Division states (Arizona, California, and Nevada) in terms of Normal, Surplus, or Shortage. In 2005, regulations and operations criteria had been developed for Normal and Surplus conditions, but detailed guidelines for a water supply shortage had not been established. It was anticipated that, among other elements, these additional strategies would identify those circumstances under which the Secretary would reduce annual water deliveries from Lake Mead such that use of mainstream water by the Lower Division states is below the 7.5 million acre-feet apportionment (a "Shortage") pursuant to Article II of the Decree in Arizona v. California.
In response to the Secretary's direction, Reclamation initiated a National Environmental Policy Act process and preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement to develop and adopt interim operational guidelines to address the operations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead during drought and low reservoir conditions. The proposed Federal Action included four key elements:
- Shortage strategy for Lake Mead and the Lower Division states
- Coordinated operation of Lakes Powell and Mead
- Mechanism for the storage and delivery of system and non-system water in Lake Mead
- Proposed modification/extension of the existing Interim Surplus Guidelines
Five federal agencies participated in the EIS process as Cooperating Agencies: the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Western Area Power Administration, and the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission. The Cooperating Agencies met regularly with Reclamation, assisted with the development and evaluation of alternatives, and assisted in the preparation of the EIS. Reclamation also coordinated the development of the EIS with the seven Basin States, Indian Tribal Governments, Mexico, other key stakeholders and interested parties, and the public. Meetings with these various groups occurred throughout the process in addition to the multiple public scoping meetings held throughout the Basin.
A Draft EIS was released at the end of February 2007 and a Final EIS was published in November 2007. The outcome of the NEPA process was the 2007 Interim Guidelines. On Dec 13, 2007 the Secretary of the Interior signed the historic decision that implements innovative strategies for Colorado River management, charting a water management course for the future.
Documents related to the development of the 2007 Interim Guidelines are available below.
ROD & EIS DOCUMENTS
- Record of Decision – Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead – PDF file
- Seven Basin States' Affirmation Statement – PDF file
- Final Biological Opinion for the Proposed Adoption of the Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead – PDF file
- Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program Concurrence Letter – PDF file
- Final Environmental Impact Statement
- Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement
- Seven Basin States – PDF file
- San Diego County Water Authority – PDF file
- Environmental Protection Agency – PDF file
- California Parties – PDF file
- Non-Governmental Organizations – PDF file
- Scoping Summary Report
Upper Colorado Basin Region
Please contact the Upper Colorado Basin Region Public Affairs Office via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional questions or information.
Lower Colorado Basin Region
Please contact the Water Operations Control Center via e-mail at email@example.com or via phone at (702) 293-8373 for additional questions or information.