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Glen Canyon Dam changes urged to address Colorado River flow

Glen Canyon Dam
Glen Canyon Dam changes
Glen Canyon DAm
Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam
Posted at 4:09 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 21:08:20-04

LAKE POWELL, Ariz. — In a major push to curtail water use on the Colorado River, The Bureau of Reclamation asked the seven states that draw its water to cut their use by 2 to 4 million acre-feet.

"That is a seismic ask. It is a huge amount of water to be reduced in such a short amount of time,” said Eric Balken, executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute.

In response, a coalition of environmental groups in Nevada and Utah are sounding the alarm about a problem at Glen Canyon Dam, which creates Lake Powell. They say in order to meet such a seismic ask, changes have to made first to antique plumbing at the Glen Canyon Dam.

With that in mind, are the plumbing limitations at Glen Canyon Dam going to affect the calculus of ongoing negotiations on the rivers?

The coalition says they've seen dramatic drops in water levels at Lake Powell since 2000. They say it's so low it's almost to the point where hydroelectric production would be affected. Some of their latest projections predict a "dead pool," where water stops flowing through the dam, creating standing water.

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They also say the dam was never built to operate for long periods at these lower lake levels, so action must be taken soon.

"These two alternatives we're presenting today, we'll at least begin to understand in negotiating future management on the Colorado River,” Balken said.

Those alternatives? Adding new tubes to allow water flow at lower lake levels, or adding a straw directly at river level to allow water access.

"That would allow operation of the dam from dead pool all the way down to river level, allowing for full operational flexibility of Glen Canyon Dam at every level,” Balken said.

The coalition says federal funding is urgently needed to help Lake Powell and, if nothing is done, the lower basin — including Lake Mead and Southern Nevada — would lose Lake Powell's water contribution.

"If the problems at Glen Canyon Dam aren't addressed soon, it's going to be bad for all stakeholders,” Balken said.

Earlier this year, representatives from the seven states depending on Colorado River water agreed to reduce their take from Lake Powell in an effort to help the struggling reservoir.

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