SALT LAKE CITY – Under the Drought Response Operations Agreement, the Bureau of Reclamation today began implementation of the 2023 Drought Response Operations Plan, which focuses on allowing upstream reservoirs to recover additional water previously sent downstream to Lake Powell.
Lake Powell is not expected to need a boost from upstream reservoirs this DROA year (May 1, 2023 – April 30, 2024), thanks to high snowpack this winter and projected high runoff this spring. Lake Powell’s projected inflow through the end of this water year (Sept. 30, 2023) is just over 14 million acre-feet of water—that’s more than the last three years combined.
“We are using this opportunity to prepare for future dry conditions by preserving and retaining storage in our upstream reservoirs,” said Katrina Grantz, Deputy Regional Director. “We also remain cautious. We know how quickly things can change, and we will continue to monitor the hydrology and will adjust our projections and operations accordingly.”.
Lake Powell, created by Glen Canyon Dam, is the largest reservoir authorized by the Colorado River Storage Project. There are three other initial storage units of the CRSP: the Flaming Gorge Unit on the Green River in Utah and Wyoming; the Wayne N. Aspinall Unit (Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal) on the Gunnison River in Colorado; and the Navajo Unit on the San Juan River in New Mexico. These units work together to meet the authorized purposes of the CRSP, including comprehensive development of the water resources of the Upper Colorado River Basin.
In 2021 and 2022, drought response actions included sending an additional 624,000 acre-feet of water (above normally scheduled releases) from upstream CRSP reservoirs to Lake Powell. Flaming Gorge provided 588,000 acre-feet and Blue Mesa provided 36,000 acre-feet of water. Both reservoirs are expected to fully recover those amounts by the end of April 2024.
In addition to downstream deliveries, previous drought response actions have included readjusting and reducing annual release volumes from Glen Canyon Dam.
Reclamation and the Upper Division States, working through the Upper Colorado River Commission, developed the 2023 Plan in accordance with the scope and purposes described in the DROA.
The DROA is part of the 2019 Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan for the Upper Colorado River Basin and aims to protect Lake Powell from dropping below critical elevations. The DROA defines elevation 3,525 feet as Lake Powell’s "target elevation" and 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.
More information about DROA and the 2023 Plan can be found on the project website, https://www.usbr.gov/dcp/droa.html.
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