Declining Colorado River flow could halt power production at Glen Canyon

Credit: Matthew Miller, USGS. Public domain

By Brandon Loomis | Arizona Republic

The outlook for Colorado River water supplies continues to deteriorate, according to federal water managers’ projections, with a worst-case drought scenario potentially leading to a loss of hydropower production at Glen Canyon Dam by next summer.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a study on Thursday showing that continued extreme drought could create an outside chance that water levels would drop below what’s needed to generate power by next July, and that beyond next year the probability rises to a 1-in-4 chance or more.

“It is a pretty dire situation for the hydropower resource,” said Leslie James, executive director for the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association.

Improved rain and snow over the coming months could still prop up the reservoir and power production, but for now the projections are trending poorly.

Farther out, in 2025, the bureau’s projections forecast up to a 66% chance that declining water levels downstream in Lake Mead could drop below the threshold that mandate major new restrictions on southwestern states’ water usage.

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