The 2022 Runoff Graphed

bk2drvr

Member
Is Powell expected to continue to rise into sept/Oct (or even later) with the releases scheduled at Flaming Gorge? What’s being predicted?

I’m afraid to open the water database website in fear of seeing red.
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
Is Powell expected to continue to rise into sept/Oct (or even later) with the releases scheduled at Flaming Gorge? What’s being predicted?

I’m afraid to open the water database website in fear of seeing red.
According to the latest 24-Month Study issued by BOR in June 2022, they expect Powell to slowly decline through the summer, hitting 3525.79 on September 30. Now the good news there is that Powell has already overperformed based on what BOR predicted to be the peak, which was 3538.25. It's already over 3539 and still climbing (slowly), so it seems there's a good chance the lake will reach 3540 before sliding back. That augers well that the lake may actually be somewhere slightly above 3527 on September 30. We'll see.

Most of the effect of Flaming Gorge's release has already been felt. That said, some of the effect of reduced releases through Glen Canyon Dam will still be felt through the end of September, which will slow the rate of decline somewhat, compared to what might normally occur during the summer. That's another reason to be confident that the world isn't about to end.

No need to fear the database. It's just data. Better to know it and learn from it, rather than ignore it and hope it goes away.
 
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bk2drvr

Member
According to the latest 24-Month Study issued by BOR in June 2022, they expect Powell to slowly decline through the summer, hitting 3525.79 on September 30. Now the good news there is that Powell has already over performed based on what they predicted to be the peak, which was 3538.25. It seems there's a good chance the lake will reach 3540 before sliding back. That augers well that the lake may actually be somewhere slightly above 3527 on September 30. We'll see.

Most of the effect of Flaming Gorge's release has already been felt. That said, some of the effect of reduced releases through Glen Canyon Dam will still be felt through the end of September, which will slow the rate of decline somewhat, compared to what might normally occur during the summer. That's another reason to be confident that the world isn't about to end.

No need to fear the database. It's just data. Better to know it and learn from it, rather than ignore it and hope it goes away.
Thanks for the great info!

Is there a plan later this year (fall timeframe) to prop Mead back up once the BOR knows the full effect of the runoff into Powell? They will have to stop the bleeding at some point, right? I wonder if they have plans to raise Mead some to provide more headroom for power generation or just keep it at a certain elevation for the forceable future.
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
Thanks for the great info!

Is there a plan later this year (fall timeframe) to prop Mead back up once the BOR knows the full effect of the runoff into Powell? They will have to stop the bleeding at some point, right? I wonder if they have plans to raise Mead some to provide more headroom for power generation or just keep it at a certain elevation for the forceable future.
Well, the short answer is that there is no plan in place yet. But BOR fired the first salvo at the seven states a couple of weeks ago basically telling them "come up with a plan in 60 days to reduce your collective water use by 2-4 maf, or we'll do it for you." Setting aside the logistics and legalities of that statement, they are on the mark in terms of what needs to be done in the short term. That means in effect a 16-32% cut in every state's annual use (from their 2016-20 average), which seems steep, but is actually about the right amount needed to stabilize both lakes and start turning them around. The duration of that cutback will be a function of how quickly the weather cooperates in terms of precipitation...

A few of us on this site are working behind the scenes to help that process along if possible. We've got a pretty detailed and realistic plan brewing, not quite ready for release, but hopefully something we can enter into the mix of discussions with the officials with the power to do something as this issue gets resolved... which has to be done quickly, especially if we have another runoff year in 2023 as bad as 2021.

Mead and Powell have to work in tandem--you can't sacrifice one to save the other and make the whole system work. But that also means that the seven states and BOR have to work cooperatively together, and that's the tough assignment right in front of us all...
 

bk2drvr

Member
Well, the short answer is that there is no plan in place yet. But BOR fired the first salvo at the seven states a couple of weeks ago basically telling them "come up with a plan in 60 days to reduce your collective water use by 2-4 maf, or we'll do it for you." Setting aside the logistics and legalities of that statement, they are on the mark in terms of what needs to be done in the short term. That means in effect a 16-32% cut in every state's annual use (from their 2016-20 average), which seems steep, but is actually about the right amount needed to stabilize both lakes and start turning them around. The duration of that cutback will be a function of how quickly the weather cooperates in terms of precipitation...

A few of us on this site are working behind the scenes to help that process along if possible. We've got a pretty detailed and realistic plan brewing, not quite ready for release, but hopefully something we can enter into the mix of discussions with the officials with the power to do something as this issue gets resolved... which has to be done quickly, especially if we have another runoff year in 2023 as bad as 2021.

Mead and Powell have to work in tandem--you can't sacrifice one to save the other and make the whole system work. But that also means that the seven states and BOR have to work cooperatively together, and that's the tough assignment right in front of us all...
That’s great! I wondered if they would solicit outside help (think tank type stuff) to come up with solutions. I hope they are open to it and we all wish you luck.

Hopefully repeating another year like 2021 has the same likelihood as a person being struck by lightening twice.
 

flowerbug

Well-Known Member
I wish that were true, but 2021 was pretty much a carbon copy of 2002. And 2012, 2013 and 2018 weren't far behind...

i think they finally figured out how important those monsoons are in even marginal years like what we're in the middle of right now. without the monsoons we had last summer we'd likely have had a repeat of 2021 in 2022 instead of what we did get. all IMO, but i am continuing to keep my rain dance going for more monsoons the rest of this summer. New Mexico is getting some nice rains and Arizona too, some that even poked up into Colorado so that's all good to see. keep that train a runnin'! :)
 

ndscott50

Active Member
That means in effect a 16-32% cut in every state's annual use (from their 2016-20 average), which seems steep, but is actually about the right amount needed to stabilize both lakes and start turning them around. The duration of that cutback will be a function of how quickly the weather cooperates in terms of precipitation...
I think you are missing the most immediate need which is to drastically cut the release of water from Lake Mead. In the short term there is no more significant water available up stream unless you are going to essentially drain Flaming Gorge. If BOR is committed to keeping Powell at or above 3,500 we can't keep releasing any where near the 9 million acre feet of year from Mead. Yet when I check on Mead it is still operating like nothing is wrong. The current plan is to yet again release 9 million acre feet and the current outflow over the last 14 days averages 14,600 CFS despite only 10,600 CFS of inflow.

Over the last year the upper basin used 1 million less acre feet of water (not on purpose, the water was simply not available). In addition, close to 700,000 acre feet of water was released from upstream reservoirs. All this did was keep Powell barely above power producing levels while also requiring a cut of 1.2 million acre feet of releases from Powell to Mead.

Over the last six years Powell has released more than its 8.23 million acre feet minimum four times, the minimum amount one year and less than the minimum one year. All this did was keep Mead stable in the years when Powell released excess water and have its level crash when it finally had to cut back. During calendar year 2021 when the upper basin states used less water and released more water from upstream storage Mead released 9.144 million acre feet, the most since 2016.

Unless we have a really big winter (like north of 130% of average) its unlikely that Powell will be able to deliver 8.23 maf of water to Mead next year. If we get another 2021 winter even providing 7 maf from Powell to Mead seems in unlikely. The current plan of limiting Powell releases while maintaining Mead releases is not sustainable even in the short term. Step one is to match Mead release to Powell release - today. That is the only way to stop the bleeding.
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
I think you are missing the most immediate need which is to drastically cut the release of water from Lake Mead. In the short term there is no more significant water available up stream unless you are going to essentially drain Flaming Gorge.
Yes, it's critical to cutback releases from Hoover Dam to keep Mead up, but the releases through there are a function not only of power generation, but more importantly for this conversation, water deliveries to the Lower Basin. So in my mind, the most immediate step to keep water in Lake Mead is to reduce the Lower Basin's water demand. Then you can talk about releasing less water through Hoover Dam.

Of course, that's all part of a bigger picture issue of how to fairly and equitably reduce water use in all seven states, which is where BOR is coming from when they say there has to be a 2-4 maf reduction pretty much right now, a concept that I think is just about right. That action will give that agency a lot more flexibility in terms of how they time and schedule releases through all the dams, but particularly Glen Canyon and Hoover. And that is what is going to keep more water in the lakes.
 

ndscott50

Active Member
So in my mind, the most immediate step to keep water in Lake Mead is to reduce the Lower Basin's water demand. Then you can talk about releasing less water through Hoover Dam.
The demand vs. supply is where I disagree. BOR has stated the system is at risk and they will act to protect the system. I think they are right and should act to protect the system. The time for water users to work out a deal and then ask BOR to supply the water for the deal has passed. Much like how the upper basin found a way to get by with 1 million less acre feet in water in 2021 (because it was not available) the lower basin need to have the same imposed on it. BOR needs to set a date within the next few weeks where Mead releases will be cut back to 9 to 10k cfs. It will be up to users to figure out how to deal with the water that is not coming.

At the beginning of the next water year there is only going to be 12.5 maf of water in the combined Powell/Mead System. If we have another 2021 or worse (yet another la nina is forecast) we only add 3.5maf to that. So 16 maf to work with. Rough estimate is you need 10 maf split between Powell and Mead to keep generating power at both. This gives you a 6 maf release from Mead to maybe just squeak by for another year. If we had another 2002 you would be down to only 5 maf to release from Mead. The risk of such an event and the lack of ability to counter it is just too high at this point. The quickest way to reduce demand is to cut off the supply. You can't use what you don't have.
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
I totally agree with the idea that there is only so much water, and BOR can control flows. They have basically given the states 60 days to come up with a plan to reduce demand, or they will essentially force the issue themselves on the supply side, which is more or less what you are saying from a practical standpoint.

What I'm saying is that it would help if the states came up with a plan proactively to reduce water use in cooperation with BOR (and yes, 60 days is a short time--but it's necessarily short) to minimize conflict among the group moving forward, and so that everybody knows how this plays out into the future in the context of existing legal agreements. For example, it would be helpful to establish triggers (based on lake level or volume at the end of a given water year--Sept 30) that put limits to water use in all states, and to guide how much water should be released through the dams. More water in the lakes, more flexibility all around. But sure, BOR can put the screws to everyone in the Lower Basin if they so choose. But much better to do that with the states conceptually prepared to deal with that.

I think your numbers you throw out there are in the right ballpark. The way I see it, the plan for 2023 needs to include a 30% cut in water use across the board for all states (and Mexico) compared to their 2016-20 average use, which would allow BOR to reduce flows through Glen Canyon Dam to about 5 maf and through Hoover Dam to about 5.9 maf and still satisfy reduced water requirements. If that happened, the system could weather another 2021--although just barely. And if the snow returns in subsequent years, the lakes would start to rise (even in slightly below average years) and some of those use restrictions could be relaxed. That's the core of my thinking on this, but obviously there's a lot of details behind that...

Realistically, can everybody do this in 2023? Maybe not. But if they don't, and another 2021 hits next year, then people are either not getting signifiant amounts of water, or power through Glen Canyon Dam will end. Or both.
 
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flowerbug

Well-Known Member
while drastic cuts may be immediately wanted, you're not too likely to see that happen. mainly because can you imagine the liability you would have if you promised water for crops that you don't end up delivering? billions of dollars... also there are the treaty obligations to Mexico. this is all is a very big ship and it doesn't turn on a dime. that is why they are talking about Next Year...
 
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