Governor responds to Colorado River drought conditions and convenes task force

(Cheyenne, WY) – Governor Mark Gordon convenes a Colorado River Task Force to meet regularly to discuss important Colorado River matters and to monitor its potential impact on Wyoming.

The action comes in response to drought conditions in the Colorado, Green and Little Snake Rivers basins that caused the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to announce withdrawals from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to maintain minimum levels at Lake Powell. No restrictions on water users in Wyoming are currently proposed.

The group is composed of representatives from the major water-use sectors of the Green and Little Snake River Basins, including agricultural, community, industrial and environmental interests. It will discuss and share information about the Colorado River with interested parties in the Green and Little Snake River Basins. The working group is a continuation of coordinated and proactive public relations work that has been underway in Wyoming since 2019. More information on the Colorado River Working Group’s opening public session will be available shortly.

“The West is facing unprecedented drought conditions and Wyoming needs to be prepared for the potential future impact of water scarcity,” said Governor Gordon. “It is important that local perspectives on issues that affect our water users and the state are heard and included in the process. I want to ensure that representatives of key water use sectors can contribute to this crisis that challenges us today and can last for years. “

In its 24-month study published today, Reclamation confirms the continually decreasing hydrological conditions for the Colorado River system. The results indicate that starting this summer, the release of drought responses will be required from key reclamation reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin – including the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming and Utah.

Based on the announcement by Reclamation, 125,000 acres of water will be released from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to protect the camp heights in Lake Powell. These releases will take place from July through October and are likely to cause the Flaming Gorge’s water level to drop another 3.5 feet by mid-fall. There are no Wyoming water rights tied to the released water, so no Wyoming water rights holders are affected.

Today’s announcement by Reclamation underscores that water supplies are becoming less reliable across the west, particularly in the Colorado River Basin. The governor is committed to protecting Wyoming’s water users under the state grants provided under the 1922 Colorado River and 1948 Upper Colorado River Basin Compacts.

The governor is also committed to ongoing collaboration on water management and operational solutions that ensure the overall reliability and safety of water supplies, as well as the obligations of the Covenant and Treaty and compliance with environmental obligations that make the system work for all of the Colorado Flow.

Aware of the increasing risks, Wyoming has planned ahead. In 2019, Wyoming signed the Drought Contingency Plan with the other Colorado River Basin states and the Department of the Interior.

This plan helps protect critical elevations at Lake Powell, a key insurance policy for Wyoming, to strengthen the state’s ability to conserve and develop its water use while meeting its compact obligations. The drought response publications are part of the overall strategy of the plan to prevent cuts being sparked under the 1922 Pact.

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