The information presented on the Water Data page actually lags several days behind the true water level. According to the USGS gauge at the dam, the surface elevation has been below 3525 since this past Saturday. Nothing dramatic happened as a result - the lake will just keep on going down for at least another month or two. With snowpack at 95 percent, depleted upstream reservoirs that need some replenishment, and a modest but not insignificant soil moisture deficit to compensate for, there will be a small early summer bump, then the lake will just continue dropping more. There is simply not enough water in the system for any other outcome.Well folks, today the Water Data page posted yesterday's lake level as 3,525.08, so that means that today's reading is going to break into the range of 3,524 and change. The safety margin has now been breached.
This is the point at which the engineers at the dam start sweating about damage to the machinery caused by air being sucked into the turbines when the generators are running at maximum capacity.
Crossing this barrier won't immediately change any plans for launch ramp operations, but now the Bureau of Reclamation has to make decisions that will affect the operation of the western electrical grid and water delivery of the Colorado River system as a whole. Spring runoff is not going to happen soon enough to allow further postponement of some hard choices.
Will the BOR reduce flow through Glen Canyon Dam, to protect the physical power plant, leading to Lake Mead hitting a lake level of 1,050, which will set off a new round of cutbacks in water delivery to customers downstream? Will lakes upstream of Powell release larger amounts to forestall these problems? Hard choices are upon us.
The next Low Water Update on Thursday 3/17 might be an interesting read.
Well, I know most people generally tend to think of Y2K as the "big deal that turned out to be nothing", but trust me, as an IT professional who worked on it, it was only not a disaster because everyone in both the public and private sectors knew it was coming and took it very seriously. A huge amount of work occurred behind the scenes to ensure that it actually did "turn out to be nothing".It's 3524.9, and nothing happened yet. I know this is serious, but so far it's kind of like Y2K.
And so it is with Lake Powell's water level problem. 3,525 was the Bureau of Reclamations own self declared "red line." They defined what the issue was (water level low enough to risk physical damage to the Glen Canyon Dam turbines), when it would occur (lake level 3,525), and generally how to fix it (several options, some of them mutually exclusive, needing to be picked from).Y2K might have been unique among potential disasters in that everyone knew exactly what the issue was, when it would occur, and generally how to fix it, which is quite unlike most disasters.
Well it's definitely a tough situation, but there's really only so much BOR can do when you're dealing with the kind of drought the region is facing. To clarify a few things:This has been an issue of mismanagement of the lake for years! The drought has played its part, but the lake has been dropping since it reached full pool in 1984. This is a political issue that non of us will resolve, and the water consumption will keep increasing and the lake will be back to a river in the near future (look at the history). The lake will not see a significant increase this year, just like last year. The upper basin lakes were lowered to help Powell and Mead, and are now lower than they have been in years. Start managing the water storage and put restrictions on those down stream, the population and water demand isn't going down its only increasing at alarming rates! The BOR is a joke the way the water storage is being mismanaged!
On the issue of urban vs. ag water use in CA, these are figures from the BOR 2020 report:Here’s my two cents…farmers aren’t the issue per se, but if we follow the water use and money that buys the geopolitical power, we’ll have a better understanding on who to fight. Water grows food for animals and vegetables, so farmers are in the clear. On the other hand, Southern California water use is clearly used for urban use more than agriculture.
Fair enough. Good clarification. Should have said "water not used for human consumptive purposes"... That said, the report was referring to all water use in CA, not specific to Colorado River water... I'd guess that "environmental use" of Colorado River water is much less than 50%, since almost none of it reaches the Sea of Cortez...Not to put too fine a point on it, but environmental flows are not really "water not used" since they are definitely used to support native Colorado River fishes found nowhere else on the planet, a wide array of waterfowl and other wildlife, the greater Grand Canyon and Lower Colorado River ecosystems, and recreational activities downstream of Lake Mead. To some extent, such use is also mandated under species recovery plans under the Endangered Species Act.
So in the end, about half the water goes to keeping the Colorado as some semblance of a functional river, which is a perfectly reasonable use.