Lake Powell on the verge of record high, Colorado Springs in the throes of contingency planning | Colorado Springs News
With Lake Powell set to hit a new record in the coming days, Colorado Springs water storage levels are in good shape after a wet spring reduced the need for watering lawns and gardens .
However, since the city receives up to 70% of its water from the Colorado River Basin each year, Colorado Springs Utilities staff are monitoring the exceptional drought conditions and low water levels in the basin. After two years of drought, conditions on the Colorado River are deteriorating much faster than utilities expected three or four years ago, said Kalsoum Abbasi, water supply planning supervisor. .
“We are in the throes of contingency planning around whatever is going on,” she said.
In the coming days, Lake Powell, a huge man-made lake on the Colorado River that straddles the Arizona-Utah border, is expected to drop below a record high set in 2005 and is only 33 % of its capacity, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency that manages hundreds of tanks.
Last week, the Bureau of Reclamation took the unprecedented step of ordering the release of 181,000 acre-feet of water from the Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa and Navajo reservoirs to protect Lake Powell’s power generation. The water will flow from the reservoirs already in demand until December. The move will leave the Blue Mesa Reservoir boat ramps, marina ramps and other recreational facilities dry throughout August, according to the National Park Service.
While the discharges will not affect Colorado Springs Utilities, if exceptional drought conditions persist and Lake Powell water levels continue to decline, Colorado Springs could be affected, she said. Exceptional drought is the most severe drought level tracked by the US Drought Monitor.
Lower Basin states, including parts of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, rely heavily on Lake Powell to provide the water they are entitled to, but if this water is not in the lake, they may be more dependent on the pond water. Colorado River to meet their needs, Abbasi said.
Colorado and other upper basin states may be required to leave water in the river for these lower states in the coming years if conditions do not improve. That could mean less water for Colorado Springs, she said.
This season, the city’s water storage is healthy, although earlier this month most of Colorado Springs’ water rights were no longer prioritized over the Colorado River Basin, which means it there was not enough water available for the city to divert the water to which it is entitled. , she said.
Colorado Springs typically loses access to basin water later in the season, Abbasi said.
The city has enough storage in its reservoirs for the next three years, in part because a wet spring saved residents from having to water their lawns and gardens so much, she said. Thus, utilities have delivered 9% less water to residents since the start of the year compared to the same period in 2020.
Utility watering restrictions that only allow residents to run their sprinklers three days a week may have contributed to these savings.
As severe drought conditions persist across much of the west, utilities are looking to accelerate some projects outlined in its 50-year plan, Abbasi said.
“We are re-evaluating everything and trying to determine what we can or need to speed up now to respond or provide some buffer to the impacts that we might see if our water rights are restricted,” she said.
For example, utilities could try to sign more water-sharing agreements with agricultural water users along the Arkansas Valley, she said.