LOCAL NEWS

In drought-stricken West, officials weigh emergency actions

Apr 13, 2022, 6:33 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:35 pm

In this aerial view, low water levels are visible at Lake Powell on June 24, 2021 in Lake Powell, U...

In this aerial view, low water levels are visible at Lake Powell on June 24, 2021 in Lake Powell, Utah. As severe drought grips parts of the Western United States, a below average flow of water is expected to flow through the Colorado River Basin into two of its biggest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Lake Powell is currently at 34.56 percent of capacity, a historic low. The lake stands at 138.91 feet below full pool and has dropped 44 feet in the past year. The Colorado River Basin supplies water to 40 million people in seven western states. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal officials say it may be necessary to reduce water deliveries to users on the Colorado River to prevent the shutdown of a huge dam that supplies hydropower to some 5 million customers across the U.S. West.

Officials had hoped snowmelt would buoy Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border to ensure its dam could continue to supply power. But snow is already melting, and hotter-than-normal temperatures and prolonged drought are further shrinking the lake.

The Interior Department has proposed holding back water in the lake to maintain Glen Canyon Dam’s ability to generate electricity amid what it said were the driest conditions in the region in more than 1,200 years.

“The best available science indicates that the effects of climate change will continue to adversely impact the basin,” Tanya Trujillo, the Interior’s assistant secretary for water and science wrote to seven states in the basin Friday.

Trujillo asked for feedback on the proposal to keep 480,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell — enough water to serve about 1 million U.S. households. She stressed that operating the dam below 3,490 feet (1,063 meters), considered its minimum power pool, is uncharted territory and would lead to even more uncertainty for the western electrical grid and water deliveries to states and Mexico downstream.

In the Colorado River basin, Glen Canyon Dam is the mammoth of power production, delivering electricity to about 5 million customers in seven states — Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. As Lake Powell falls, the dam becomes less efficient. At 3,490 feet, it can’t produce power.

If levels were to fall below that mark, the 7,500 residents in the city at the lake, Page, and the adjacent Navajo community of LeChee would have no access to drinking water.

The Pacific Northwest, and the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico and Texas are facing similar strains on water supplies.

Lake Powell fell below 3,525 feet (1,075 meters) for the first time ever last month, a level that concerned worried water managers. Federal data shows it will dip even further, in the most probable scenario, before rebounding above the level next spring.

If power production ceases at Glen Canyon Dam, customers that include cities, rural electric cooperatives and tribal utilities would be forced to seek more expensive options. The loss also would complicate western grid operations since hydropower is a relatively flexible renewable energy source that can be easily turned up or down, experts say.

“We’re in crisis management, and health and human safety issues, including production of hydropower, are taking precedence,” said Jack Schmidt, director of the center for Colorado River Studies at Utah State University. “Concepts like, ‘Are we going to get our water back’ just may not even be relevant anymore.”

The potential impacts to lower basin states that could see their water supplies reduced — California, Nevada and Arizona — aren’t yet known. But the Interior’s move is a display of the wide-ranging functions of Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam, and the need to quickly pivot to confront climate change.

Lake Powell serves as the barometer for the river’s health in the upper basin, and Lake Mead has that job in the lower basin. Both were last full in the year 2000 but have declined to one-fourth and one-third of their capacity, respectively, as drought tightened its grip on the region.

Water managers in the basin states — Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado — are evaluating the proposal. The Interior Department has set an April 22 deadline for feedback.

___

Associated Press writers Sam Metz in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Juan and Rosa Mercado attend a news conference in Salt Lake City on Sept. 16, 2019. A judge has dec...

Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com

Judge declines to throw out suit against Ogden police officers who shot, killed knife-wielding man

A U.S. district judge has declined to dismiss a case brought against the city of Ogden and a group of police officers by the parents of a pocketknife-wielding man who was shot and killed by police in 2019.

21 minutes ago

emergency lights...

Mark Jones

17-year-old ‘not expected to survive’ following a motorcycle crash

A 17-year-old male is not expected to survive after his motorcycle struck a vehicle on Saturday afternoon, according to the Lehi City Police Department. 

1 hour ago

A trip to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines quickly became personnel for...

Dan Rascon

Members of Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square pay respects to fallen US soldiers in the Philippines

Members of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square visited the largest American cemetery outside of the United States, making it a tender and special day for all.

3 hours ago

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs for the first time in the Philippines in the grand b...

Dan Rascon

Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performs for first time in the Philippines

History was made for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square as it performed its very first concert ever in the Philippines.

7 hours ago

A volunteer dentist and a University of Utah dental student perform an examination during the "Give...

Collin Leonard, KSL.com

400 kids get free dental care during ‘Give Kids A Smile’ event

Eighty dentists, 20 hygienists and hundreds of community volunteers from across the Wasatch Front provided underprivileged families with free dental care for their children Saturday. It's become an annual event at the University of Utah's School of Dentistry.

7 hours ago

SWAT officers with the Salt Lake City Police Department stand in a driveway after they and patrol o...

Josh Ellis

Man arrested after allegedly threatening SLC first responders with gun

A 23-year-old man was arrested early Saturday morning after police say he threatened emergency medical workers with a handgun.

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

In drought-stricken West, officials weigh emergency actions