The Colorado River system is facing the first official bottlenecks
SALT LAKE CITY – States that rely on the Colorado River system for much of their water are preparing to announce scarcity soon.
Such a declaration would be unprecedented. It would mandate steps to store water in Lake Powell from smaller reservoirs upstream, such as the Flaming Gorge in Utah, with more robust levels.
The US Bureau of Reclamation released a 24-month forecast for Lake Powell in the spring, showing the lake will drop below 3,525 feet in March 2022.
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Democrats on the US House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources have an agreement between the upper states of Colorado, including Utah, stressing that if the lake drops below 3,525 feet, they must take steps to get more water from reservoirs like Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa , and Navajo.
Lake Mead, the other mega-reservoir in the Colorado system, has already reached its trigger point, and the Lower Basin states are planning an expected official scarcity statement in August.
The reservoir system sustained a seemingly unsustainable system. The states and Mexico have distributed rights to 16.5 million acres of water from a river that has only provided about 13 million acres of feet per year this century, according to the US Geological Survey.
The reservoirs of the Colorado system can hold more than 61 million acres of water … although the entire system is 40 percent of that at this point.
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The Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Colorado River in Colorado can hold 830,000 acres of feet of water … but now it’s 384,000, which is only 46% full.
The Navajo Reservoir in New Mexico and Colorado is on the San Juan River. It is at 65% of its 1.7 million acre capacity.
The Flaming Gorge in Utah and Wyoming has 83% of its 3.7 million acre capacity.
These three reservoirs taken together are small compared to the large two.
Lake Powell can hold over 24 million acres of water. Right now it has about 8 million, which is about 34 percent of the capacity.
And Lake Mead’s 26 million acres capacity is 9 million, that’s 35 percent of the total.