In drought-stricken West, officers weigh emergency actions

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal officers say it could be crucial to scale back water deliveries to customers on the Colorado River to stop the shutdown of an enormous dam that provides hydropower to some 5 million clients throughout the U.S. West.

Officials had hoped snowmelt would buoy Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border to make sure its dam might proceed to produce energy. But snow is already melting, and hotter-than-normal temperatures and extended drought are additional shrinking the lake.

The Interior Department has proposed holding again water within the lake to keep up Glen Canyon Dam’s capacity to generate electrical energy amid what it mentioned had been the driest circumstances within the area in additional 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 within the basin Friday.

Trujillo requested for suggestions on the proposal to maintain 480,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell — sufficient water to serve about 1 million U.S. households. She confused that working the dam under 3,490 ft (1,063 meters), thought of its minimal energy pool, is uncharted territory and would result in much 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 energy manufacturing, delivering electrical energy to about 5 million clients in seven states — Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. As Lake Powell falls, the dam turns into much less environment friendly. At 3,490 ft, it could possibly’t produce energy.

If ranges had been to fall under that mark, the 7,500 residents within the metropolis on the lake, Page, and the adjoining Navajo neighborhood of LeChee would haven’t any entry to ingesting water.

The Pacific Northwest, and the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico and Texas are dealing with comparable strains on water provides.

Lake Powell fell under 3,525 ft (1,075 meters) for the primary time ever final month, a stage that involved anxious water managers. Federal information reveals it’ll dip even additional, in essentially the most possible state of affairs, earlier than rebounding above the extent subsequent spring.

If energy manufacturing ceases at Glen Canyon Dam, clients that embrace cities, rural electrical cooperatives and tribal utilities can be pressured to hunt dearer choices. The loss additionally would complicate western grid operations since hydropower is a comparatively versatile renewable power supply that may be simply turned up or down, consultants say.

“We’re in crisis management, and health and human safety issues, including production of hydropower, are taking precedence,” mentioned Jack Schmidt, director of the middle 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 decrease basin states that might see their water provides diminished — California, Nevada and Arizona — aren’t but recognized. But the Interior’s transfer is a show of the wide-ranging capabilities of Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam, and the necessity to shortly pivot to confront local weather change.

Lake Powell serves because the barometer for the river’s well being within the higher basin, and Lake Mead has that job within the decrease basin. Both had been final full within the yr 2000 however have declined to one-fourth and one-third of their capability, respectively, as drought tightened its grip on the area.

Water managers within 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 suggestions.


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

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