Drought Response Operations Agreement

Upper Colorado Basin 2022 Drought Response Operations Plan

The Upper Division States and the Bureau of Reclamation, signatories to the 2019 Drought Response Operations Agreement, together with the Upper Colorado River Commission developed the Drought Response Operations Plan in accordance with the scope and purposes described in the DROA. DROA is part of the 2019 Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan for the Upper Colorado River Basin. DROA aims to minimize the risk of Lake Powell declining below critical elevations.

The 2022 Plan consists of two components:

  1. Framework – a document which contains information and principals that will be considered when developing yearly Drought Response Operations Plans.
  2. Attachments – documents that describe actual Drought Response Operations for a specific plan year. Attachments will be completed each spring that Drought Response Operations are necessary, based upon the hydrologic information existing at the time. Attachments will be updated throughout the year as needed based on hydrologic information.

Click here to view the 2022 Drought Response Operations Plan (Framework and Attachments)

Click here to view the Department of the Interior Approval Memo

DROA Background

Signed in 2019, the Upper Basin and Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plans outline strategies to address the ongoing historic drought in the Colorado River Basin.

The DROA is one element of the Upper Basin Drought Contingency Plan. It establishes a coordinated and collaborative process among the Department of the Interior and Upper Division States for developing a Drought Response Operations Plan to protect critical elevations at Lake Powell. This process includes participation from Upper Basin Tribes and federal agencies, and includes consultation with the Lower Division States as well as input from other Colorado River Basin Tribes, water users, stakeholders and members of the public.

The 2022 Plan aims to protect critical elevations at Lake Powell by considering implementation of two potential strategies:

  1. Working within the Glen Canyon Dam annual release volume by adjusting the timing of monthly water releases to temporarily retain more water in Lake Powell, and
  2. Increasing water releases from the upstream Colorado River Storage Project Act Initial Units of Flaming Gorge, Aspinall, and Navajo.

Any operation under DROA must work within existing legal and regulatory frameworks and be consistent with the authorities that govern each facility's operation. Any water released from any upstream Initial Unit will be later recovered in that Initial Unit pursuant to the DROA and the applicable Plan.

DROA defines elevation 3,525 feet as the "target elevation" at Lake Powell for minimizing the risk of the reservoir declining below 3490 feet. The target elevation provides a 35-foot buffer above minimum power pool (elevation 3,490 feet) to allow for response actions before Lake Powell drops below 3,490 feet.

Previous DROA-Related Actions

Beginning in summer 2021, pursuant to the DROA, Reclamation determined there was an imminent need to release 161,000 acre-feet of water from the upstream Initial Units of Flaming Gorge and Aspinall Unit (Blue Mesa) to protect the target elevation at Lake Powell. In January of 2022, Reclamation also modified Glen Canyon Dam releases to readjust the release of 350,000 acre-feet of water from Glen Canyon Dam in an effort to protect critical elevations at Lake Powell.

Last Updated: 5/3/22