Race is on for Colorado River basin states to conserve before feds take action

airford1

Well-Known Member
What Race to conserve? I'm in SoCal and just now received information to conserve water based on last years consumption, which needs to be changed to per person in every house. SoCal is going to control the water usage with gouging you in your wallet. I personally dont think that to majority of people in SoCal are aware of the severity of the water supply shortage, it's going to be ugly if we dont get rain this winter.
 

DirtSailor71

Active Member

Well done article and worth the read.
 

Colorado Expat

Well-Known Member
It should be borne in mind that the Bureau of Reclamation is not entirely objective when it comes to water use tradeoffs across the Colorado River system. By the late 1960s, after all of the good dam sites and economically viable water projects had been built, the BOR had to find a new business model to keep building dams that would pass congressional scrutiny on a cost-benefit basis. Since most of the remaining projects they had on the books would cost more money to build and operate than they would ever return in economic benefits, this was a problem. To get around it, the Bureau started bundling dams into multi-facility “projects”, where the revenues from big hydro dams, known as “cash register dams,” would offset the losses from all the other non-viable projects in the batch.

Glen Canyon dam was one of a triad of such “cash register” dams proposed along the main stem of the Colorado, the other two being in the Grand Canyon, at Marble Canyon and Bridge Canyon. As such, it was the fiscal cornerstone of the Colorado River Storage Project, which also included other dams in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The public opposition to the Grand Canyon dams, and the Carter administration’s sharp fiscal critique of additional dams proposed for construction in the 1970s effectively ended the BOR building spree that had commenced in the 1930s, because there were no more sources of potential revenue to offset the losses from dams of dubious economic benefit. However, the Bureau was still left with a situation in which if the big dams did not continue to produce hydropower revenue, the entire BOR system would start to run at a fiscal loss.

Given this history, it is not surprising that the BOR is insisting on maintaining hydropower generation at Lake Powell, even if it comes at the expense of agriculture in the Lower Basin, and even though a variety of other options are now available that would take up the slack in the grid. The BOR basically painted itself into this corner decades ago, and its current priorities reflect the business model it adopted at that time. By contrast, Hoover Dam was built far earlier, in the 1930s, and a loss of hydro there comes with no such similar contingent liabilities (which is not to say it would not have impacts). So the BOR has basically taken the position that it will defend its potentially flawed business model unilaterally, whether the states in the Colorado River basin like it or not. The real question here is whether it is the states that need to reform their past practices, or the BOR.
 
Sounds like this time around around we may actually see necessary changes?

Top of the list will be for the Lower Basin to address their ongoing "structural deficit" and stabilize Lake Mead.
 

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bellrodt

New Member
The ongoing drought and need for water will not be solved by conservation. Drastic, emergency action is needed. I suspect this post will meet with guffaws, but I believe a an aqueduct/canal system must be built to supply Lakes Powell and Mead with adequate supply. Waiting and hoping for a wet year or two is unrealistic, as water usage continues to climb and hydroelectric power is endangered. An emergency federal program to bring upper midwest excess water to the river would be a major undertaking costing billions. Our tax monies are spent on much less important issues. The recent deluge of the Yellowstone River is a case in point. That deluge flowed Northeast to the Missouri, which then enters the Mississippi.

It took great foresight and huge funding to build the dams for Lake Powell and Lake Mead. I believe a project of that scope is needed. But......
I think the days of such foresight and commitment are history, and current political priorities will preclude any such massive program from happening.
 

bk2drvr

Member
Has it crossed anyone else’s mind that the dam at Flaming Gorge should be removed? The Green is a major artery to the Colorado (it may even be bigger than the Colorado?). It begs the question why it was put there in the first place? If removed, how would this change inflows into Powell and the lower Colorado river basin?
 

Meatwagon

Escalante-Class Member
Has it crossed anyone else’s mind that the dam at Flaming Gorge should be removed? The Green is a major artery to the Colorado (it may even be bigger than the Colorado?). It begs the question why it was put there in the first place? If removed, how would this change inflows into Powell and the lower Colorado river basin?
Well to my way of thinking, if the Gorge wasn't there we wouldn't get the boost to Powell that we are seeing now and would be in even worst shape. Kinda like if Powell weren't there Mead would be a mud puddle and there wouldn't be the population growth or affordable produce in the grocery store. I think all these dams are not only necessary but are doing exactly what they suppose to do STORE WATER.
 

bk2drvr

Member
Well to my way of thinking, if the Gorge wasn't there we wouldn't get the boost to Powell that we are seeing now and would be in even worst shape. Kinda like if Powell weren't there Mead would be a mud puddle and there wouldn't be the population growth or affordable produce in the grocery store. I think all these dams are not only necessary but are doing exactly what they suppose to do STORE WATER.
The water would already be in Powell being STORED if FG wasn’t there. Clearly FG is being chosen to prop up Powell because it holds an enormous amount of water and the Green is a main tributary (if not the biggest) to the Colorado River system. I’m all for the Dams being in place but in this case we have choked off one of the main arteries to the system with FG in place. I’m sure the folks up in FG would hate to hear my opinion on this but when I look at a map of the Colorado River system and ponder the problem at hand I can’t help but be drawn to FG and ask myself, why?
 
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Dorado

Escalante-Class Member
The water would already be in Powell being STORED if FG wasn’t there. Clearly FG is being chosen to prop up Powell because it holds an enormous amount of water and the Green is a main tributary (if not the biggest) to the Colorado River system. I’m all for the Dams being in place but in this case we have choked off one of the main arteries to the system with FG in place. I’m sure the folks up in FG would hate to hear my opinion on this but when I look at a map of the Colorado River system and ponder the problem at hand I can’t help but be drawn to FG and ask myself, why?
So using your logic, Mead would be full if Powell didn’t exist…sounds kinda familiar to the drain LP thinking…
 

KCYakker

Active Member
Has it crossed anyone else’s mind that the dam at Flaming Gorge should be removed? The Green is a major artery to the Colorado (it may even be bigger than the Colorado?). It begs the question why it was put there in the first place? If removed, how would this change inflows into Powell and the lower Colorado river basin?
I've read (somewhere - sorry!) that the Green is actually the master stream. Greater length and - on average - greater water volume than the Colorado. IIRC, the official christening of the Colorado had to do with some political arm-twisting in the eponymous state back in the 19th Century.
 

bk2drvr

Member
So using your logic, Mead would be full if Powell didn’t exist…sounds kinda familiar to the drain LP thinking…
Hey hey now that’s crazy talk… haha.. well I suppose but I certainly don’t want that to happen. Im a boater and love Lake Powell so you know where my priorities lie.

Since there are such huge demands on the Colorado river system it seems to me that it would have made sense that Powell would be the catch all. Meaning there would be no dams above Lake Powell and all the rivers and tributaries would flow into Powell. Maybe that’s crazy thinking on my part but looking at the problem now it would have made a lot of sense.

The fact that FG water is being used as a buffer leads me to believe that Powell has some legal priority over FG. They have dumped water now twice from FG and sent it to Powell. This had to have been a legal deal and not a favor. Would be curious to know what the legalities are around this.
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
You have to think of all the reservoirs in the Colorado/Green/San Juan River watershed as one system that works together, and is operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. Removing any one of the dams would create a problem somewhere within the system in terms of water storage, flood control, recreation, and/or power supply.

Flaming Gorge was completed in 1964, one year after Glen Canyon Dam. Besides generating power and offering recreation opportunities, its main purpose (as well as that of all other upstream reservoirs) is to regulate river flow. In wet years, it stores excess water otherwise lost that Powell or Mead wouldn't be able to hold when they are near capacity, and in dry years, it's there as a safety valve to release water to help prop up the larger reservoirs. So the "extra" release this spring can be seen as Flaming Gorge just doing its job. No more, no less.

There are no "legal priorities" of one reservoir over another. The BOR operates it as a single system, with an eye to making sure that water deliveries to the Lower Basin (i.e., through Glen Canyon Dam) are in accordance with the Law of the River (1922 Compact and subsequent related laws), and that there is enough water in the major reservoirs to produce hydroelectric power, which generates a lot of revenue. And sometimes that means moving water from one reservoir to another at different volumes and at different times, depending on demand or overall water availability in a given year.

The reservoirs upstream of Powell have a capacity of about 6.5 maf, of which Flaming Gorge is the largest at 3.8 maf. As of June 25, it holds about 2.7 maf, or about 72% full.
 
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