by Fred Breedlove

In an April 8, 2022 letter to each of the seven Colorado River basin states, the Interior Department asked for comments by April 22 about its plan to reduce releases from Glen Canyon Dam to 7.0 million acre-feet (maf) this year, a reduction of 480,000 acre-feet.

In the letter, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo cited risk to their ability to generate power at Glen Canyon Dam if the water level drops below 3490’ mean sea level (msl), as well as jeopardizing the ability to utilize infrastructure for delivering water to the City of Page, Arizona and the Navajo Nation’s LeChee Chapter.  As of this month, Lake Powell’s water elevation is at 3523.05’ msl, only 24% of its capacity.

Such action, while unprecedented, is authorized under Sections 6 and 7.D. of the 2007 Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead.  While this would be a temporary measure, it portends even more dramatic reductions in the years to come without significant change in the drought conditions or the development of substantial augmentation supplies.