From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):
Currently, we are releasing about 710 cfs from the dam to the Lower Blue River. The reservoir is at a water level elevation of about 7890 feet–that’s roughly 60 feet below full, or roughly 38% of its total content.
You will see the reservoir water elevation continue to drop for about another month. The current snowpack above the Blue River Basin is around 140% of average for this time of year. I’ve been asked how this compares to snowpack numbers for the 2011 season on the Blue River. In 2011 in April we were closer to 150%. We continue to keep an eye on the snowpack conditions, fluctuating inflows, and the water level elevation and adjusting releases as necessary. It is likely the 710 cfs release rate will remain in place well into next week.
More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.
Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Seasonal fill for Horestooth and Carter underway #ColoradoRiverApril 13, 2014
From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):
We are in the process of filling both Horsetooth and Carter Lake. Currently, Horsetooth is roughly 80% full at an elevation of 5414 feet above sea level. This is its average water elevation high mark for the beginning of the summer season in a typical year. But, this is not a typical water year and Horsetooth’s water elevation is projected to continue going up.
Similarly, Carter Lake is 90% full at a water level elevation of about 5749 feet. Like Horsetooth, it is projected to continue filling. At this time, we are anticipating Carter will fill, hitting its highest water level elevation for the season by mid-May. Horsetooth will likely hit its highest water level elevation for the season by late June.
From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):
Northern Water, which manages water stored throughout a massive system of linked reservoirs in Northern Colorado, set its annual water quota at 60 percent, despite customer requests to receive 70 percent of their full potential water allotment.
Since 1957, Northern Water has issued the water quotas, which dictate the amount of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects that will flow to cities, industrial complexes and farmers in Northern Colorado. The city of Fort Collins typically gets half of its water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and has been particularly dependent on the system after High Park Fire debris polluted the Poudre River.
Fort Collins was among customers who lobbied Northern Water for a 70 percent quota on Wednesday, during a stakeholders meeting held to discuss this year’s quota. Despite those requests, Water Resources Manager Andy Pineda recommended that Northern Water’s board opt for a 60 percent quota.
A few factors went into Pineda’s recommendation, including Colorado’s above-average snowpack, high reservoir levels, and the general absence of drought in Northern Colorado. Spring runoff this year is expected to release an extra 100,000 acre feet of water down area streams and rivers, which should limit the region’s need for supplemental water from the Colorado-Big Thompson.
Pineda’s opinion was not shared by all. A few farmers asked the board for a 70-100 percent quota to help them plan for the growing season. Fort Collins wanted 70 percent to help offset troubles with Poudre River water quality. There is also a chance that Lake Granby reservoir will spill over this June, and a few stakeholders were concerned that water would be wasted with a reduced quota.
More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.
Click here to read the newsletter.
From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):
Flows in the Gunnison River have dropped to ~350 cfs today to accommodate the sonar mapping exercise at the Crystal Dam stilling basin.
Maintenance and testing of both power generators at Blue Mesa Dam will also start today – this is scheduled to be finished within 10 days. During this time there will be no power generation at Blue Mesa Dam. In order to minimize the amount of bypass water at Blue Mesa Dam, releases at Crystal Dam will remain at 300 cfs until the Blue Mesa power plant is back online. Therefore flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will continue to be around 350 cfs until further notice.
More Aspinall Unit coverage here.
President’s $1 Billion Reclamation Budget for FY 2015 Underscores Water & Power as Economic Drivers in the WestMarch 17, 2014
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan DuBray):
President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request released today identifies a total of $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation, continuing the President’s commitment to be prudent with taxpayer dollars while setting consistent spending priorities for Reclamation. As the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier and second-largest producer of hydroelectric power, Reclamation’s projects and programs are critical to driving and maintaining economic growth in the western states.
“This budget reflects not only the President’s vision of opportunity and growth but also his strong commitment to meet water delivery requirements in the West in the face of dry conditions and a changing climate,” said acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley. “With this request, we are reinforcing our commitment to promote efficient water deliveries and power generation, implement critical river and environmental restoration programs, continue our focus on water-related activities to support tribal nations, and stretch water supplies through recycling and conservation.”
The proposal for Reclamation’s Water and Related Resources account of $760.7 million includes $343.5 million for resource management and development activities. This funding provides for planning, construction, water conservation activities, management of Reclamation lands – including recreation – and actions to address the impacts of Reclamation projects on fish and wildlife. The request also emphasizes reliable water delivery and power generation by requesting $417.2 million to fund operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation activities at Reclamation facilities, including dam safety initiatives.
The budget emphasizes Reclamation’s core mission to address the water needs of a growing population in an environmentally responsible and cost-efficient manner and to assist states, tribes and local entities in solving water resource issues. It also emphasizes the operation and maintenance of Reclamation facilities in a safe, efficient, economic and reliable manner – ensuring systems and safety measures are in place to protect the public and Reclamation facilities.
Reclamation’s funding request addresses administration, departmental and bureau priorities, including opportunities to enhance America’s Great Outdoors through ecosystem restoration, renewable energy, water conservation through the WaterSMART Program, to strengthen tribal nations, and engage the next generation of Americans in resource-related issues.
WaterSMART Program – The FY 2015 budget for Reclamation proposes $52.1 million for the WaterSMART Program (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) to assist communities in stretching water supplies and improving water management. WaterSMART components include: WaterSMART Grants funded at $19 million; the Basin Studies Program funded at $3.9 million; the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program funded at $21.5 million; the Water Conservation Field Service program funded at $4.5 million; the Cooperative Watershed Management program funded at $250,000; the new Drought Response program funded at $1.5 million; and the new Resilient Infrastructure program funded at $1.5 million.
Strengthening Tribal Nations – The FY 2015 Budget proposes $90 million for Indian Water Rights Settlements, in a new account of the same name to ensure continuity in the construction of four of the authorized projects and to highlight and enhance transparency in handling these funds. The budget includes $81 million for the ongoing Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project (Title X of Public Law 111-11). The budget also includes $9 million to continue implementation of three settlements authorized in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. These settlements will deliver clean water to the Taos Pueblo of New Mexico, the Pueblos of New Mexico named in the Aamodt case, and the Crow Tribe of Montana.
The budget request proposes to transition the Central Utah Project Completion Act Program into the Bureau of Reclamation as part of broader administration efforts to implement good government solutions, ensure consistent treatment of federal water projects, consolidate activities when possible and reduce duplication and overlap. The FY 2015 CUPCA budget is $7.3 million.
Specifics of the budget request include:
America’s Great Outdoors Initiative – Reclamation has a responsibility to focus on the protection and restoration of the aquatic and riparian environments affected by its operations. The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative includes $116 million for Reclamation river restoration projects. Highlights of Reclamation’s ecosystem restoration activities, many of which support Endangered Species Act recovery programs, include:
$118.6 million to operate, manage and improve California’s Central Valley Project. More than half of the funding provides for operation and maintenance of project facilities, including $16.4 million for the Replacements, Additions and Extraordinary Maintenance program – which is used for modernization, upgrade and refurbishment of facilities throughout the Central Valley. Within the CVP total, $11.9 million and an additional $2 million in the CVP Restoration Fund are for the Trinity River Restoration Program. $28.3 million for the Lower Colorado River Operations Program, of which $16.2 million is for the Multi-Species Conservation Program to provide long-term ESA compliance for river operations. $32 million for activities consistent with the settlement of Natural Resources Defense Council v. Rodgers as authorized by the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act to restore and maintain fish populations, and avoid adverse water impacts. $22.7 million for ESA recovery implementation programs, including $15.1 million to implement the Platte River Endangered Species Recovery Implementation Program and $5.1 million for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. $18 million for the Klamath Project, which supports studies and initiatives to improve water supplies to meet the competing demands of agricultural, tribal, wildlife refuge and environmental needs along with facilities operations and maintenance activities. $37 million for California Bay-Delta Restoration. The account focuses on the health of the Bay-Delta ecosystem and improving water management and supplies. The budget will support the coequal goals of environmental restoration and improved water supply reliability under the following program activities: $1.7 million for a Renewed Federal State Partnership, $8 million for Smarter Water Supply and Use, and $27.4 million for Habitat Restoration. These program activities are based on the Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay-Delta issued December 22, 2009. $57 million for the Central Valley Project Restoration Fund to continue funding a variety of activities to restore fish and wildlife habitat and populations within the CVP service area of California. $22.7 million for the Middle Rio Grande Project, of which $7.9 million is targeted to support environmental activities developed through the Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program. $17 million for the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project for implementation of the biological opinions for the Federal Columbia River Power System.
Other Budget Highlights Include:
$34.1 million for rural water projects to undertake the design and construction of five projects and operation and maintenance of tribal features for two projects intended to deliver potable water supplies to specific rural communities and tribes located primarily in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota. A total of $11 million for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, which will continue funding grants to implement conservation measures and monitor the effects of those measures on the river diversions. $82.9 million for the Dam Safety Program to continue dam safety risk management and risk reduction activities throughout Reclamation’s inventory of dams. Corrective actions are planned to start or continue at a number of facilities. A major focus continues to be modifications at Folsom Dam in California. $26.2 million for Reclamation’s ongoing site-security program that includes physical security upgrades at key facilities, guards and patrols, anti-terrorism program activities and security risk assessments.
The Bureau of Reclamation, throughout the 17 western states, is committed to helping meet the many water challenges of the West. A driving force behind bureau initiatives is resolution of water issues that will benefit future generations and providing leadership on the path to sustainable water supplies.
More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.
— Reclamation (@usbr) March 12, 2014
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan DuBray):
Bureau of Reclamation acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley announced Jennifer Gimbel has been named Reclamation’s Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs. “An important component of carrying out Reclamation’s mission is working with its customers, stakeholders and the public,” said Acting Commissioner Pimley. “Jennifer’s experience working in the water community at the state, regional and federal level will be a valuable asset as we continue to work alongside our partners in the West to confront widening imbalances between water supply and demand.”
As Deputy Commissioner, Gimbel will oversee Reclamation’s congressional, legislative and public affairs activities. She will also be the executive responsible for Reclamation’s national relationships with federal, state and local governments, as well as citizen organizations and other nongovernmental groups.
Gimbel returns to Reclamation after serving as Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior where she focused on legislative and legal matters, concentrating on issues regarding the Rio Grande, Salton Sea, California Bay Delta, and the Clean Water Act.
She came to Interior in 2013 after serving five years as Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board which is the water policy agency for the State of Colorado. As Director, she carried out policies and directives of a citizen board and the administration relating to the conservation, development and utilization of the state’s water resources. She represented Colorado in several interstate activities, including being the Governor’s representative on the Colorado River and as one of his appointees to the Western States Water Council.
Gimbel previously worked at Reclamation from 2001 until 2008 on a variety of policy and program issues including serving as Chair of the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Working Group. Program areas included operation and maintenance, deferred maintenance, the Water Conservation Field Services Program, drought, hazardous waste, invasive species, water management and planning, and other issues.
Gimbel’s career also includes experience with the Colorado Attorney General’s office and the Wyoming Attorney General office, where she advised and represented the Attorney General and other state officials regarding interstate water matters, water law and administrative law.
She has a Bachelor of Science and Juris Doctorate from the University of Wyoming and a Master of Science from the University of Delaware.
Congratulations Jennifer from all of us here at Coyote Gulch.
From The Durango Herald (Katie Fiegenbaum):
One federal program implemented through the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water management, has been providing water-sustainability grants to states, tribes, local governments and nongovernmental organizations since 2010. The WaterSMART program, which stands for Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow, provides grants as well as resources and expertise in 17 Western states.
However, the program is authorized to spend only $200 million on the grants. Without raising the funding cap, the program will end in the near future.
A bill introduced Feb. 12 to the Senate and co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., would raise the authorization ceiling for the water-conservation grants through 2023. Funds still would need to be requested through the normal budgetary process.
“Population growth and widespread drought are forcing us to do more with less water. Now more than ever, it’s essential that we make every drop count,” Udall said in a statement last week. “These programs are helping our communities develop the technology we need to conserve water, save energy and cut costs.”
The program has saved 734,000 acre-feet of water per year since 2010. One acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons of water and will supply slightly more than two single-family households for a year.
Dean Marrone, WaterSMART program coordinator, says the program consistently has too little funding for the number of applications it receives. It provides 50-50 cost-share grants, meaning half the money for the project must be provided by the organization requesting funds, mainly to upgrade water infrastructure…
Southwest Colorado has seen a fair amount of WaterSMART projects.
In 2013, the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association received a $38,758 grant through the program for head-gate automation, remote monitoring and other upgrades.
Steve Fletcher, manager of the association, applied for the grant to modernize its water system and make it more efficient using updated technology. Fletcher said he already has applied for another grant this year that would provide $850,000 for hydroelectricity projects.
The Dolores Water Conservancy District received $118,351 through the program to line its leaking clay canals and restore total efficiency to the water delivery system in 2010. It also recently received a $25,000 cost-share grant to help update its strategic plan and guide its work for the next five to 10 years…
The bill currently is in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, on which Udall serves. A hearing was held Thursday before the Water and Power Subcommittee, where Robert Quint, senior adviser for the Bureau of Reclamation, spoke about the importance of the project…
Under the bill, the WaterSMART program also would be reauthorized to provide grants to state water resource agencies to continue to develop a National Water Census through the U.S. Geological Survey. This authority expired in 2013.
The program also pays for studies of major rivers that provide information about future water availability and recommendations for the future. A Colorado River Basin study was completed at the end of 2012.
The bill also makes sure the WaterSMART program will prioritize projects that prevent and combat drought.
More infrastructure coverage here.
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):
California’s largest municipal water supply agency, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, took about 80,000 acre-feet from its water savings account in the lake last year. Now the agency is contemplating a withdrawal at least twice that size, enough to cause the surface of the massive reservoir to drop two feet and the shoreline to recede by as much as 60 feet.
“Things are so bad in California, unless it starts raining like crazy we are probably going to take another 150,000 to 200,000 acre-feet this year,” said Bill Hasencamp, Metropolitan’s manager of Colorado River resources.
The withdrawal is on top of the roughly 1 million acre-feet of water the agency already gets each year from California’s total annual allotment of 4.4 million acre-feet from the Colorado River…
Metropolitan deposited the water, so Metropolitan has every right to withdraw it, said J.C. Davis, spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
“The people making an issue of this only see the negative, because water is being taken out,” he said. “But if Met hadn’t banked it in the first place, that water wouldn’t be there.”
Without the water stored in Lake Mead so far by California, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico, Davis said, the surface of the reservoir formed by Hoover Dam would be at least 10 feet lower than it is right now…
Nevada, California and Arizona won the right to store unused Colorado River water in Lake Mead as part of an interstate agreement enacted in 2007.
Mexico started banking water in the lake a few years later, after a major earthquake in April 2010 damaged canals and pipelines that country uses to divert water from the Colorado south of the border. A treaty amendment struck in 2012 expanded Mexico’s ability to store water in the reservoir.
There are restrictions on how much of the banked water, officially known as Intentionally Created Surplus, can be taken out in a single year. California’s annual withdrawals are capped at 400,000 acre-feet, Nevada’s at 300,000 acre-feet. The bank cannot be tapped during a declared shortage on the river or if federal officials determine that a withdrawal would tip the river into shortage.
All Intentionally Created Surplus accounts are subject to a 3 percent reduction each year — call it a bank fee — to account for evaporation.
Since the program began, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has socked away some 540,000 acre-feet and used about 16,000 acre-feet, leaving it with the largest bank account right now. Metropolitan has stored more water than the authority, but Southern California has withdrawn more of its water…
The surface of the lake has fallen more than 100 feet over the past 12 years amid persistent drought on the overtaxed Colorado River. If the lake level drops another 35 feet, it will trigger the first federal shortage declaration and force Arizona and Nevada to trim their use of river water. If the lake drops 60 feet, the authority will lose the use of one of two intake pipes that supply the Las Vegas Valley with nearly all of its water.
Current projections by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation call for Lake Mead to shrink by 20 feet by the end of the year and 30 feet by April 2015, when it could hit a record low. For now, though, the lake is expected to hover just above the trigger point for a federal shortage at least through January 2016.
In other words, just a few extra feet of water in Lake Mead could make a big difference.
Even so, Davis said Southern Nevada officials have made no effort to dissuade their counterparts in California from making a withdrawal from the water bank.
“It’s for a rainy day, or rather a non-rainy day,” he said. “If you want to create a banking system and you want people to participate in it, you can’t admonish them every time they make a withdrawal. That’s the whole point of a banking system: to give people the flexibility to take the water when they need it.”[...]
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January, and Met’s board of directors followed that last month by issuing a water supply alert to spur conservation ahead of possible mandatory water-use restrictions.
Conditions have been so bad that Met won’t be allowed to take any water this year from the State Water Project that links Southern California to rivers and lakes some 500 miles to the north.
“We are relying heavily on the Colorado River,” Hasencamp said.
Met, as his agency is commonly known, supplies about half of the water used by 19 million Southern California residents. It serves 26 member utilities in six counties spanning an area that stretches from the Mexican border to Oxnard, north of Los Angeles, and from the coast to the Inland Empire.
Agency spokesman Bob Muir said Met currently has about 2.4 million acre-feet of water stored in “various accounts,” enough to meet its demand for a little more than one year.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Colorado’s U.S. senators hailed the federal record of decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit this week, calling it a major milestone to bringing clean drinking water to communities in Southern Colorado.
The record of decision affirms the choice of the North Comanche route for the pipeline, as well as setting up a master contract for storage of nearly 30,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo. It also sets the path for a cross-connection at Pueblo Dam that eventually will link the north and south outlets.
Construction of the conduit, which could cost up to $400 million, still requires funding from Congress. When completed, it will provide water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.
“Colorado knows well that water is an extremely precious resource, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help ensure families in Southeastern Colorado have access to a safe and healthy water supply,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. “Today’s announcement couldn’t be more important to southeast Colorado, and it demonstrates the Interior Department’s commitment to getting this project done.”
“This project, the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will help strengthen Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout Southeastern Colorado,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. “Water is our most valuable resource in Colorado, and we need to make every drop count.”
Bennet and Udall have led efforts to secure resources and move forward with the construction of the Conduit. In addition to advocating for quick approval of the EIS, the senators have written to the Department of Interior to provide adequate resources for construction of the Conduit in future federal budgets.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado.
Bennet and Udall worked together to enact legislation in 2009 authorizing the construction of the Conduit, and have pushed ever since for funding to keep the project on schedule. The legislation also allows revenues from federal contracts to be applied to the cost of building the Conduit.
Here’s the release from Reclamation (Terry Stroh/Justyn Hock):
Reclamation announced today that it has released a draft environmental assessment on piping Roger’s Mesa Water Distribution Association’s Slack and Patterson Laterals off the Fire Mountain Canal, located in Delta County, Colo. The project involves replacing approximately 9.4 miles of unlined earthen laterals with buried water pipeline. The purpose of the project is to improve the efficiency of water delivery to ditch users and reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.
The draft environmental assessment is available our website or a copy can be received by contacting Reclamation.
Reclamation will consider all comments received prior to preparing a final environmental assessment. Comments can be submitted to the email address above or to: Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81506. Comments are due by Friday, March 14, 2014.
More infrastructure coverage here.
From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):
Due to the increasing forecasts for spring runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are now set at 400 cfs.
More Aspinall Unit coverage here.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation. Here’s an excerpt:
Minute 319 Bi-National Partnership
For decades, environmental and water supply concerns over the Colorado River have been the subjects of controversy, dispute, and litigation along the U.S.-Mexico border. After years of intense negotiation, a historic partnership agreement, “Minute 319,” has been touted as one of the most innovative negotiated agreements between nations to include environmental river flows. Signed in November 2012, Minute 319 provides the authority and framework under the 1944 Water Treaty to implement actions under consideration by multiple administrations dating back to the late 1990s. This implementing agreement was only possible with the partnership of the Colorado River Basin states, water users and environmental organizations in both countries, and it provides a unique example of cooperation for other basins worldwide.
Conservation Colorado: Did you get our December water update in your inbox last weekend? Don’t miss it.December 26, 2013
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The Bureau of Reclamation will extend the repayment contract for Trinidad Lake to 75 years because prolonged drought has reduced the anticipated use of storage in the reservoir. The reservoir, formed by the completion of Trinidad Dam in 1977, was built by the Corps of Engineers for flood control, but the project also includes recreation and wildlife values, as well as an irrigation contract between Reclamation and the Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District. The contract dates back to 1967 and the original debt was $6.46 million.
The construction of Trinidad Dam was a matter of dispute when Kansas sued Colorado over violations of the Arkansas River Compact in 1985. The compact commission reviews operating principles at the lake every 10 years.
“The contract repayment is tied to water supply, and we determined the contract could not be repaid over 70 years, so we extended it to 75 years,” Andrew Gilmore, Reclamation engineer, told the compact commission this week.
He explained that several years of drought, including just a 17 percent of average snowpack in the Purgatoire River basin last year, have reduced payments by the district to a minimal level.
Meanwhile there is a request by the city of Trinidad to store water from outside the Purgatoire River district boundaries in the lake. Jeris Danielson, manager of the district, supported using more capacity in Trinidad Lake, which has a capacity of 125,967 acre-feet, with 20,000 acre feet set aside for irrigation, municipal and industrial storage contracts. Flood control is 50,000, while a joint use pool is 39,000 acre-feet. However, the reservoir often does not contain much more than the permanent pool of about 16,000 acre-feet set aside for fish and wildlife. The current level is about 14,400 acre-feet.
Danielson told the commission flooding has rarely occurred and more conservation storage could be used.
“In the joint use pool there is 35,000 acre-feet of storage that goes unused each year,” Danielson said. “It’s an incredible resource that just sits there.”
From 8NewsNow.com (Nathan Baca):
The U.S. Interior Secretary told water agency chiefs in Las Vegas how happy she is to see them getting along…
New Interior Secretary Sally Jewell spoke to the Colorado River Water Users Association at Caesars Palace Friday morning. The group is made of water agencies from most western states. She told the group she is happy to see that politics is not getting in the way of state governments talking about sharing dwindling water resources.
Secretary Jewell says it’s because the talk about climate change reached a new level.
“The debate about whether it is going on is over. The president’s climate action plan, which he released in June, was very helpful to all of us. He put a stake in the ground and he said, ‘this is how we’re going to go forward.’ He charged people like me with being part of the solution and prepare our landscapes. That is where we’re going. We’re moving on from the debate and into the solution,” Secretary Jewell said.
The secretary said that even with an average year of rain and snow along the Colorado River, reservoir levels will keep going down. Lake Mead’s level is expected to go down between eight and 30 feet within months. That would trigger a state of emergency forcing all agencies to cut water use by 4 percent…
A majority of the people managing major water facilities are nearing or even past retirement age. There is a fear of a talent drain, if the Interior Department doesn’t find qualified employees soon.
Here’s a statement from McCrystie Adams and Earth Justice about Secretary Jewell’s speech at the conference:
McCrystie Adams, staff attorney for the Rocky Mountain Office of Earthjustice, issued the following statement today regarding the future of the Colorado River:
“A business-as-usual response to the current crisis, while potentially resolving disputes between those who take water out of the river, does nothing to ensure a better future and a living river.
“A more sustainable future for the Colorado River will require a fundamentally different approach to river management and water supply. Smart water planning means more than carefully dividing up flows—it means valuing living, flowing rivers and the natural systems that depend upon them as much as municipal and agricultural water. It means embracing water conservation, recycling, and re-use. We urge the Secretary and all of those who depend on the Colorado River to ensure that the river is a keystone of our future and not a relic of our past.”
The Colorado River is the foundation of natural systems—fish, wildlife and entire ecosystems—across a wide swath of the west. For a century, these important resources and the human communities that depend on them have taken a back seat to the drive to capture water for our growing cities. Now, with flows dropping and its natural rhythm disrupted, the river itself is endangered. This is painfully apparent through the struggle for survival of the river’s few remaining native fish.
From Fronteras (Laurel Morales):
The Colorado River Water Users Association met in Las Vegas this week to discuss how to deal with some of the lowest water levels on record. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell spoke to the group Friday.
The theme of the Interior Secretary’s speech was constrained resources — a tight budget and the resource on everyone’s mind, water. Despite financial constraints, Jewell said her agency is committed to providing scientific research for innovative conservation and incentive grants.
“Climate models and droughts of this magnitude and worse are going to be more common in the Southwest for decades to come,” Jewell said. “And yet I don’t think we’re ready to pack up, shut down Las Vegas, shut down our farms and start to import what we eat. We’ve got to work together.”
She mentioned the collaborative effort to make a deal with Mexico known as Minute 319 and the tribal partners working on water solutions.
While Jewell did not lay out specific conservation examples to deal with the impending water shortage, environmentalists are quick to point to water recycling and water banking.
Jewell discussed another critical issue — a massive turnover of Bureau of Reclamation staff. More than 50 percent of department employees are eligible to retire in the next five years.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
Increasing temperatures and changes in the timing of snowmelt runoff could impact the amount of water available on the upper Rio Grande in the future. These are some of the results of the Upper Rio Grande Impact Assessment released by Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle.
“This report uses the most current information and state of the art scientific methodology to project a range of future supply scenarios in the upper Rio Grande basin,” Castle said. “It is a great first step and a call to action for water managers and users in the basin and the partner federal agencies to move forward and develop adaptation to the challenges this study brings to light.”
The study was conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It includes a detailed evaluation of the climate, hydrology and water operations of the upper Rio Grande basin of Colorado and New Mexico. Also included is an evaluation of the potential impacts associated with climate change on streamflow, water demand and water operations in the basin.
Temperatures will increase four to six degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century, according to the climate modeling used in the study. Although the modeling projects that total annual average precipitation in the basin will not change considerably, we are likely to see a decreasing snowpack, an earlier and smaller spring snowmelt runoff and an increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of both droughts and floods.
The models used for the study consistently project an overall decrease in water availability in the basin. Rio Grande supplies are projected to decrease by an average of one-third from current supplies. The water supply from the San Juan-Chama Project, which is imported to the Rio Grande, is projected to decrease by an average of one-quarter.
All of these impacts would contribute to a larger gap between water supply and demand and lead to future water management challenges for the Bureau of Reclamation and other water managers within the upper Rio Grande basin.
The URGIA is the first impact assessment to be completed by Reclamation as part of the Westwide Climate Risk Assessments through the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Program. Impact assessments are reconnaissance-level investigations of the potential hydrologic impacts of climate change in the major river basins of the Western United States. Through WaterSMART, Reclamation is also able to conduct a more in-depth basin study in conjunction with state and local partners that would develop options and strategies to address supply and demand imbalances.
The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation, sustainability and helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. It identifies strategies to ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water supply and demand.
To read the report or learn more about WaterSMART please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
The Bureau of Reclamation is making funding available through its WaterSMART program to support new Water and Energy Efficiency Grant projects. Proposals are being sought from states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to partner with Reclamation on projects that increase water conservation or result in other improvements that address water supply sustainability in the West.
The funding opportunity announcement is available at http://www.grants.gov using funding opportunity number R14AS00001.
Applications may be submitted to one of two funding groups:
Funding Group I: Up to $300,000 will be available for smaller projects that may take up to two years to complete. It is expected that a majority of awards will be made in this funding group. Funding Group II: Up to $1,000,000 will be available for larger, phased projects that will take up to three years to complete. No more than $500,000 in federal funds will be provided within a given fiscal year to complete each phase. This will provide an opportunity for larger, multiple-year projects to receive some funding in the first year without having to compete for funding in the second and third years.
Proposals must seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict. To view examples of previous successful applications, including projects with a wide-range of eligible activities, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/weeg.
In 2013, Reclamation awarded more than $20 million for 44 Water and Energy Efficiency Grants. These projects were estimated to save about 100,000 acre-feet of water per year — enough water to serve a population of about 400,000 people.
The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation, sustainability and helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. It identifies strategies to ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands.
Proposals must be submitted as indicated on http://www.grants.gov by 4 p.m., Mountain Standard Time, Jan. 23, 2014. It is anticipated that awards will be made this spring.
To learn more about WaterSMART please visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.
More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb):
The Bureau of Reclamation’s Great Plains Region has selected Jacklynn Gould, a Colorado native, as the Eastern Colorado Area Manager in Loveland, Colo. Gould will assume her responsibilities as Area Manager on Dec. 15. She replaces Mike Collins, who is retiring after more than 42 years of federal service.
“Gould is the right candidate for the job,” said Great Plains Regional Director Mike Ryan. “Her prior experience working at ECAO, along with her extensive background in management and water operations qualifies her to help mitigate water challenges of the future.”
Gould is the first female Area Manager Colorado has hired. Prior to accepting the Area Manager position, she served as the Deputy Area Manager for the Eastern Colorado Area Office in Loveland. Gould’s career with Reclamation began in 1992 as a water resource planner in Reclamation’s Denver Office. She has also worked in the Albuquerque Area Office, and most recently in the Eastern Colorado Area Office.
“I’m honored to be selected as the Eastern-Colorado Area Manager,” said Gould. “I look forward to the opportunities and challenges Colorado faces in managing and developing the water resources of tomorrow.”
Eastern Colorado is home to two major Reclamation projects: the Colorado Big-Thompson and Fryingpan-Arkansas. Together, the projects provide water to over 1.5 million people.
More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.
Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:
The Colorado flood recovery team continues to make progress in helping communities rebuild from the September floods. Here is an update of recovery efforts:
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) contracted with a debris removal company to help residents in the Big Thompson Canyon dispose of certain materials removed from homes during flood cleanup efforts. The contractor is scheduled to remove debris during the weeks of Dec. 9 and Dec. 23. Residents in the area will be asked to place debris alongside the U.S. 34 right-of-way. For more information, residents can contact the CDOT flood information hotline at (720) 263-1589. CDOT implemented flood mitigation measures for the Waldo Canyon fire burn scar along U.S. Highway 24 — including stabilizing slopes and creating sediment ponds. Boulder completed the “Left Hand Creek Flood Control Project” that included upgrading bridges and channel capacity to keep storm water in the channel and away from neighborhood homes. The Boulder Creek Path, a heavily used commuting pathway will reopen this week, with only a small section from Pearl Parkway to Goose Creek Path, east of Foothills Parkway still closed. With completion of major sewer line repairs, remaining areas in Estes Park have been removed from the “No-Flush Zone.” Lyons elementary, middle school and senior high students are back in their schools this week. Some 700 students attended classes at the Main Street School in Longmont since the September flood.
Meanwhile, Reclamation has started moving water through the Adams Tunnel again. The pumps had been off since the flooding in September. Here’s a report from Leia Larsen writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. Here’s an excerpt:
The Bureau of Reclamation stopped pumping in mid-September after heavy rains in Estes Park and the Front Range. Crews were working to repair damage and dredge sediment loads from reservoirs caused by the ensuing floods in the Estes Park area. As of Wednesday, Nov. 27, the Bureau began running around 60 cubic feet per second through the tunnel. Most years, it runs around 550 cfs by mid-December to refill Horsetooth and Carter reservoirs. According to public information officer Kara Lamb, the Bureau of Reclamation is still hoping to meet that schedule this season.
Currently, Lake Granby is at about 72 percent full.
“We’re probably going to see that tick down a little bit as we starting running more (water) through the tunnel,” Lamb said. “But right now, Lake Granby is staying pretty even since we’re not taking that much.”
‘Keeping the last wild river in the [#ColoradoRiver] Basin intact is important to a healthy environment’ — Susan BruceDecember 2, 2013
Here’s a post arguing to keep the Yampa River riparian system as a baseline for a healthy river from Susan Bruce writing for the Earth Island Journal. Here’s an excerpt:
Governor John Hickenlooper’s directive to the Colorado Water Conservation Board earlier this year to create a Colorado Water Plan by 2015 has put the Yampa, which has the second largest watershed in the state, under the spotlight.
Efforts to dam the Yampa go back to the proposed construction of Echo Park Dam, which Congress vetoed in 1952, bowing to a groundswell of public outcry led by David Brower, then with the Sierra Club. But in a compromise he later regretted, Brower supported the construction of two other dams: Glen Canyon on the Colorado River and Flaming Gorge on the Green River. The Green and Yampa rivers used to have similar flows and ecosystems. The construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam in 1962 modified the Green’s hydrograph, reducing sediment flow by half and tapering its seasonal fluctuations to a slower, more consistent flow, opening the way for invasive species like the tamarisk tree to crowd out native ones.
More recently, in 2006, there was a proposal to build a reservoir near Maybell, CO, and pump water from the Yampa to a reservoir about 230 miles away for municipal and agricultural use on the Front Range. But the plan was scrapped due to environmental and cost concerns; the reservoir would have cost between $3 billion and $5 billion.
The oil and gas industry is also eyeing the Yampa. Shell Oil had plans to pump about 8 percent of the Yampa’s high-water flow to fill a 1,000-acre reservoir, but it shelved the proposal in 2010, citing a slowdown of its oil-shale development program. Still, oil production in Colorado is at its highest level since 1957 and gas production at an all-time high. While industrial and municipal water needs are projected to increase with population growth, the largest water user, agriculture, will continue to divert the lion’s share of Colorado’s water, around 80 percent. All of which mean the pressure to suck up Yampa’s water is only going to grow.
The most unique characteristic of the Yampa is its wild and unimpeded flow, in particular the extensive spring flooding that washes away sediment, giving the river its brownish hue. This “river dance” helps establish new streamside forests, wetlands, and sandy beaches, as well as shallows that support species like the endangered Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker. By late fall, the water barely covers the riverbed in some stretches…
The rafting industry, which contributes more than $150 million to Colorado’s economy, has a strong voice when it comes to the Yampa’s future. Although damming the Yampa would provide a more consistent flow over a longer season, George Wendt – founder of OARS, the largest rafting company in the world – speaks for most outfitters when he says he would rather see the Yampa retain its natural state.
Conservationists also argue that the Yampa’s full flow helps meet Colorado’s legal obligation to provide water to the seven states within the Colorado Basin and Mexico. Measures being considered to protect the Yampa include an instream flow appropriation by the Colorado Water Conservation Board that would reserve Yampa’s water for the natural function of rivers, and a Wild and Scenic River designation by Congress.
Many proponents of keeping the Yampa wild point to its value as a baseline – an ecosystem naturally in balance. “If things go awry on dammed rivers, which they do, we have a control river, so to speak,” says Kent Vertrees of The Friends of the Yampa. “Keeping the last wild river in the Colorado Basin intact is important to a healthy environment and so future generations can experience in situ millions of years of history little changed by man.”
Here’s a guest column written by Jim Pokrandt that is running in the Sky-Hi Daily News:
The Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) intergovernmental agreement (IGA) is in final form but has not been totally wrapped up because two important preconditions have not been completed, General Counsel Peter Fleming reported to the Colorado River District Board of Directors at its October meeting.
Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and the West Slope, the Windy Gap Firming Project IGA is a package of mitigation enhancements that would be part of the Windy Gap Firming Project once it is permitted for the Municipal Subdistrict of Northern Water by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The preconditions for the River District’s execution of the agreement are that the United States (1) makes a satisfactory finding that the WGFP can be operated consistent with Senate Document 80 — meaning no impact to the United States’ obligations to the beneficiaries, including West Slope beneficiaries, of the Colorado Big Thompson (C‐BT) Project, and (2) adopts an enforceable provision recognizing that if the River District does not challenge the WGFP permitting decision, that it does not waive any legal rights regarding federal decisions involving the same or similar legal issues.
Fleming anticipated that that these conditions will be satisfied in the context of Reclamation’s final record of decision on the WGFP, which is expected in the first part of 2014. In the meantime, Fleming said the River District has worked extensively with Grand County on matters related to the WGFP and the operation of the C-BT Project — including the Grand Lake Water Clarity Agreement and the upcoming initiation of the WGFP Carriage Contract negotiations.
With respect to the Grand Lake clarity issues, Fleming reported there have been several meetings with Reclamation and Northern to help ensure that a workable solution can be reached to meet the Grand Lake water quality standard. An important goal in that regard has been to avoid a stalemate over a massively expensive “fix” that could require a separate congressional authorization and appropriation.
With regard to the WGFP carriage contract negotiations, the River District has assisted Grand County in efforts to secure the best possible negotiating position in Reclamation’s negotiation process.
Fleming said the River District believes Grand County’s specifically identified role in Senate Document 80 entitles the county (and its advisers) to a more involved position in the negotiations than Reclamation’s standard “sit and‐observe” role for members of the public in its contract negotiation process.
Another goal is to ensure that the Windy Gap water that Grand County is entitled to use pursuant to the IGA can be stored in Granby Reservoir for no charge or at a very affordable rate.
Here’s a report about Reclamation’s High Flow experiment to fix river ecology through the Grand Canyon from Jonathan Thompson writing for the High Country News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:
I can stand for hours on the vertigo-inducing bridge that spans the cold, green Colorado just downstream – a 1,000-foot long steel spiderweb suspended gracefully over a 700-foot deep void – simply trying to comprehend Glen Canyon Dam’s concrete enormity: 300 feet thick at its base, 1,500 feet long at the crest. More than that, though, is what it represents: Our effort to control what was once a muddy, wild, tumultuous river, to rein it in with a colossal concrete plug, holding back billions of gallons of water and flooding hundreds of miles of once-sublime canyons.
Glen Canyon Dam’s power to bewilder – on both sensory and conceptual levels – was enhanced this past week as massive amounts of water were released from the dam to mimic natural floods and hopefully bolster the Grand Canyon ecology and beaches that were forever altered by the dam. Call it a simulated Niagara Falls or, better yet, a several-day-long opening of one of the biggest faucets in the world – gargantuan plumbing, if you will.
I happened to be driving through Page as the big water was being released, so I parked in the dam’s visitor center parking lot, and as soon as I opened the car door I could not only hear, but could also feel the roar emanating from 800 feet below, down at the bottom of the dam, where four giant nozzles sprayed streams of white into the green water of the river, churning it all up into a violent froth. A few days earlier, about 7,000 cubic feet of water was being released from the dam each second, through the hydroelectric turbines. During the flood, that increased to 35,000 cfs, or some 13 million gallons per minute, blasting into the river via the turbines and the nozzles. It was a good time to be rafting the Grand Canyon…
If the dam’s enormity is a symbol of our ability to control nature, then the bathtub ring is an equally potent symbol of how slippery our grasp really is. It shows us how fickle our climate can be, and how our hugest efforts can merely temporarily mitigate the impacts of that fickleness. And it shows us how our very efforts to dominate the planet have gone awry, causing our already unpredictable environment to get even more wild and uncontrollable. Even the massive dam, just one piece of the huge plumbing system that we have constructed up and down the Colorado River drainage, can’t completely fix the arid truth any more than water managers’ prayers for more rain and snow next year.
From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):
It’s still several months away, but Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District officials already know they’ll have a better water situation for next year’s growing season than they did this year. Northern Water’s Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which is the region’s largest water-supply project, took in far more water than normal during September and October, thanks to the abundance of moisture that fell on the region.
The C-BT’s four West Slope reservoirs (there are 12 reservoirs all together, stretching from the West Slope to the Front Range foothills) took in about 31,000 acre-feet of water during those two months. That’s the second-best water intake for those four reservoirs (which make up about half of the C-BT’s total storage capacity) during September and October in the 56-year history of the project, according to Andy Pineda, the Water Resources Department manager at Northern Water, who spoke at Northern Water’s Fall Water Users Meeting on Wednesday. That recent abundance of moisture leaves the C-BT’s collective reservoir levels much better than they’ve been in recent months, and that’s good news for the region.
C-BT water flows to more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land, and to about 860,000 people in portions of eight counties in north and northeast Colorado, according to Northern Water numbers. Since the C-BT Project went into use in 1957, the Northern Water board has set a quota every year in April to balance how much water in the system could be used by cities and farmers through the growing season and how much water needed to stay in storage for future years. In nearly all years, the board can set a quota of 100 percent — although it rarely does — and still have at least some water in storage for the following years. However, this past April, a quota of 87 percent would have depleted everything in the C-BT Project’s reservoirs. C-BT reservoir levels were historically low after stored water had been used heavily to get through the 2012 drought. Additionally, snowpack in the mountains was limited at the time. The only other year the board had been so limited in setting its April quota was in 2003 — following the historic drought year of 2002.
But next April, the Northern Water board won’t face such a predicament. Pineda said Wednesday the Northern Water board right now could set a quota of 108 percent before depleting the system — and that’s before snow rolls into the mountains this winter and spring. That snow will eventually melt and dump even more water into the reservoirs.
Each year, winter and spring snowpack plays the biggest role in determining how much water will be available for farmers and cities during the next growing season. The historic average for the C-BT quota has been just above 70 percent. A 70 percent quota means that for every acre-foot of water a C-BT shareholder owns, they’ll get 70 percent of an acre-foot to use throughout the year. An acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons of water.
Last year, with supplies limited, the Northern Water board set its quota at a below-average 60 percent.
Here’s the release from Reclamation (Katrina Grantz):
On November 11-16, 2013, the Department of Interior will conduct a high flow experimental (HFE) release from Glen Canyon Dam in accordance with the High-Flow Protocol. Under this Protocol, high flow releases are linked to sediment input and other resource conditions below Glen Canyon Dam. This HFE will be the second conducted under the HFE Protocol.
Beginning on the morning of November 11th, releases from Glen Canyon Dam will begin ramping up to full power plant capacity (approximately 22,200 cfs). At midday on November 11th, bypass tubes at Glen Canyon Dam will be opened and releases will continue to increase up to full power plant and bypass capacity (approximately 37,200 cfs) by the evening of November 11th. Releases will be maintained at peak release for 4 days (96 hours) and then begin ramping back down. Releases will return to normal operations in the afternoon of November 16th. The entire experiment, including ramping is expected to last 5 and a half days, with 4 day (96 hours) at peak release. November releases from Glen Canyon Dam prior to and after the HFE are expected to fluctuate between 5,000cfs and 8,000cfs. The elevation of Lake Powell is expected to decrease approximately 2 ½ feet during the 5 and a half day experiment. The annual release volume from Lake Powell remains 7.48 maf and will not change as a result of the HFE. For additional information about High Flow Experiments at Glen Canyon Dam, please check back for links to the soon-to-be-updated High Flow Experiment webpages.
Related Information and graphics:
* Glen Canyon Dam November 2013 HFE Release Hydrograph
* 2013 HFE Downstream Flow Arrival Time Map
* Lake Powell 2013 HFE Projected Elevation Graphs
* Lake Mead Projected Elevation Graphs
The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell in September was 857 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (210% of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in September was 600 kaf. The end of September elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3591.3 feet (108.7 feet from full pool) and 10.93 million acre-feet (maf) (45% of full capacity), respectively. Due to above average runoff from monsoonal activity in September, Lake Powell elevation increased by about 2 feet over an 11-day period in September. The reservoir elevation is now declining and will continue to decline through the fall and winter until spring runoff in 2014.
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.
The water year 2013 unregulated inflow volume was 5.12 maf (47% of average), placing 2013 as the fourth driest on record since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. Water years 2002, 1977, and 2012 were drier, receiving 2.64 maf, 3.53 maf, and 4.91 maf, respectively. In terms of reservoir elevation and storage, Lake Powell reached its peak for water year 2013 on June 18th at 3,601.2 ft (98.8 feet from full pool) which is 35.7 feet lower than last year’s peak elevation of 3636.9 ft. The end of water year 2013 elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3591.3 feet (108.7 feet from full pool) and 10.93maf (45% of capacity), respectively. This is 3.0 maf less than 2012 end of water year storage which was 13.93 maf (57% of capacity).
Releases for Water Year 2013 totaled 8.232 maf. Pursuant to the Interim Guidelines, Lake Powell operated under the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier in 2013. Throughout water year 2013, Reclamation adjusted operations of Glen Canyon Dam to release the appropriate annual volume during 2013 to achieve Upper Elevation Balancing Tier objectives as practicably as possible by September 30, 2012.
The operating tier for water year 2014 is the Mid-Elevation Release Tier with an annual release volume of 7.48 maf, as established in August 2013 and pursuant to the Interim Guidelines , Section 6.C.1. Reclamation will schedule operations at Glen Canyon Dam to achieve as practicably as possible a 7.48 maf annual release volume by September 30, 2014.
Releases from Glen Canyon Dam in October are currently averaging approximately 8,000 cfs with daily fluctuations between approximately 5,000 cfs at nighttime and approximately 10,000 cfs during the daytime and consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997). The scheduled release volume for October 2013 is 480 kaf.
The anticipated release volume for November is 500 kaf with fluctuations for power generation throughout the day consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997). However, the release volume may be adjusted in the event of a High Flow Experiment. Under the High-Flow Protocol, high flow releases are linked to sediment input and other resource conditions below Glen Canyon Dam. Preliminary analysis appears favorable for a high flow experimental release to occur during the period of November 11 – 19, 2013. During the High Flow Experiment, total releases from Glen Canyon Dam at full bypass may reach approximately 37,200 cfs. The total experiment, including ramping, could last up to about five and a half days. In the event of a high flow experiment, releases from Glen Canyon Dam prior to and after the high flow experiment are anticipated to fluctuate between 5,000cfs and 8,000cfs.
In December, the release volume will likely be about 600 kaf, with fluctuations throughout the day for hydropower generation.
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 fluctuations for power generation when called upon as a partner that shares reserve requirements within the electrical generator community (i.e. balancing area). Reserves provide system reliability in the event of an unscheduled outage. Glen Canyon Dam typically maintains 43 MW of reserves (approximately 1,200 cfs). Reserve calls can be maintained for a maximum of 2 hours after which time the generation rate should be returned to the original schedule. If reserves from Glen Canyon Dam are called upon, releases from the dam can exceed scheduled levels and can have a noticeable impact on the river downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. Calls for reserves are fairly infrequent and typically are for much less than 43 MW.
Inflow Forecasts and Model Projections
The hydrologic forecast for water year 2014 for Lake Powell, issued by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume will be 9.65 maf (89% of average based on the period 1981-2010). The water year 2013 forecast increased by 1.24 maf since last month, primarily due to much higher than expected monsoonal precipitation and runoff in September. At this early point in the season, there is significant uncertainty regarding next year’s water supply. The forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 6.5 maf (60% of average) to a maximum probable of 17.5 maf (162% of average). There is a 10% chance that inflows could be higher than the maximum probable and a 10% chance they could be lower than the minimum probable.
Based on the current forecast, the October 24-Month study projects Lake Powell elevation will peak near approximately 3,604 ft next summer and end the water year near 3,598 feet with approximately 11.6 maf in storage (48% capacity). Note that projections of elevation and storage have significant uncertainty at this point in the season, primarily due to uncertainty regarding next season’s snowpack and resulting inflow to Lake Powell. Under the minimum probable inflow scenario, the projected summer peak is 3,586 ft and end of water year storage is 9.3 maf (38% capacity). Under the maximum probable inflow scenario the projected summer peak is 3,661 ft and end of water year storage is 18.4 maf (76% capacity). There is a 10% chance that inflows will be higher, resulting in higher elevation and storage, and 10% chance that inflows will be lower, resulting in lower elevation and storage. The annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2014 is projected to be 7.48 maf under all inflow scenarios.
Consistent with Section 6.C.1 of the Interim Guidelines, the Lake Powell operational tier for water year 2014 is the Mid-Elevation Release Tier with an annual release volume of 7.48 maf. This was determined in the August 2013 24-Month study tier determination run which projected that, with an 8.23 maf annual release pattern in water year 2014, the January 1, 2014, Lake Powell elevation would be below 3,575.0 feet and the Lake Mead elevation would be above 1,025.0 feet. This determination will be documented in the 2014 AOP, which is currently in the final stages of development.
Upper Colorado River Basin Hydrology–
The Upper Colorado River Basin regularly experiences significant year to year hydrologic variability. During the 14-year period 2000 to 2013, 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 14 years. The period 2000-2014 is the lowest 14-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.25 maf, or 76% of the 30-year average (1981-2010). (For comparison, the 1981-2010 average is 10.83maf.) The unregulated inflow during the 2000-2013 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. One wet year can significantly increase total system reservoir storage, just as persistent dry years can draw down the system storage.
At the beginning of water year 2014, total system storage in the Colorado River Basin was 29.9 maf (50% of 59.6 maf total system capacity). This is about 4 maf less than the total storage at the beginning of water year 2013 which began at 34.0 maf (57% 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 2014. Based on current forecasts, the current projected end of water year 2014 total Colorado Basin reservoir storage is approximately 29.6 maf (50% of capacity).
Updated: October 29, 2013
Here’s the release from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
The third edition of the Literature Synthesis on Climate Change Implications for Water and Environmental Resources from the Bureau of Reclamation is now available. The report offers a summary of recent literature on the current and projected effects of climate change on hydrology and water resources.
It is organized around the five Reclamation regions, which correspond roughly with the Columbia River basin, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River basin, the upper Colorado River basin, the lower Colorado River basin, and the Great Plains.
This report contains information surveyed through 2012. It was assembled by Reclamation and was subjected to external review by staff from each of the five National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments centers located in the western United States.
The information in this report is meant for use in a range of planning studies including environmental impact statements, biological assessments, and feasibility studies. The need for the report was first identified by the multi-agency Climate Change and Water Working Group in 2008. Previous versions were published in 2011 and 2009.
Click here to read the report. Here’s the introduction:
The Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) mission involves managing water and power systems in an economically efficient and environmentally sensitive manner. Mission requirements often involve conducting planning studies for the longer term, potentially involving proposed system changes (e.g., changes in criteria that would govern operations for the long term, changes in physical system aspects). For these longer-term studies, questions arise on how consideration of climate change might affect the assessment of benefits and costs for the various planning alternatives under evaluation. Such questions may lead to the analytical treatment of climate change implications for the study. However, such analysis would be predicated on a documented understanding that chosen analytical methods and usage of climate change information are consistent with the scientific understanding of climate change and the published scientific and assessment literature.
This report aims to support longer-term planning processes by providing region- specific literature syntheses on what already has been studied regarding climate change implications for Reclamation operations and activities in the 17 Western States. These narratives are meant for potential use in planning documents (e.g., National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] environmental impact statements, biological assessments under Federal/State Endangered Species Act [ESA], general planning feasibility studies). It is envisioned that this report would be a living document, with literature review and synthesis narratives updated annually to reflect ongoing research developments.
More Reclamation coverage here.
Here’s the release from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
The earliest possible detection of quagga and zebra mussels has long been a goal of biologists seeking to discover their presence in water bodies. The Bureau of Reclamation’s Detection Laboratory has released two reports identifying a new sampling method to improve the accuracy of quagga and zebra mussel detection while still at the microscopic larval stage. The reports also outline the processes and procedures used to identify invasive mussels through DNA testing.
“Improving the accuracy of testing provides Reclamation and its partners better information about the presence of quagga and zebra mussels in water bodies where our facilities are located,” laboratory manager Denise Hosler said. “These sampling procedures allow for the improved detection when the mussels are in their larval stage.”
For early detection, Reclamation searches samples from reservoirs, lakes, canals and other water bodies for the microscopic larval form of quagga and zebra mussels. Because they are so small, multiple testing methods are used, including cross-polarized light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and PCR testing of the DNA of larvae in the water sample.
“Early detection of mussel larvae does not mean that the water body will necessarily become infested,” Reclamation’s Director of Research and Development Curt Brown said. “Early detection provides a warning for managers that a water body is being exposed to mussels through some pathway, so they can consider additional means to prevent further introduction.”
Reclamation’s Detection Laboratory is located in the Technical Service Center in Denver. It specializes in invasive mussels and also identifies species through taxonomic and genetic testing. It was awarded the Colorado Governor’s Award for High Impact Research in 2012 for its work advancing the early detection of invasive quagga and zebra mussels.
To download the reports or learn more about Reclamation’s Invasive Mussel Program, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/mussels.
Please remember to clean, drain and dry your watercraft when you are moving it between bodies of water.