Colorado River releases planned for upper basin reservoirs

Blue Mesa Reservoir
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Decreasing water levels at Lake Powel and Lake Mead, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of ReclamationOpens in a new tab.,  have triggered the Upper Basin Drought Response Operations Agreement (DROA)Opens in a new tab. under the Colorado River Basin Compact.  Three upstream reservoirs will be releasing 181,000 acre-feet of waterOpens in a new tab. into the system to restore some supply to Lake Powell,  The scheduled releases supplement already established releases.

Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Utah/Wyoming Border.

Flaming Gorge DamOpens in a new tab. impounds waters of the Green River and has a total capacity of 3,788,900 acre-feet. At full elevation of 6,045 feet, it has a surface area of 42,020 acres. It will release 125,000 acre-feet of water into the Colorado River System beginning with increments in July and extending into October.

Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado.

The Blue Mesa Reservoir is considered to be Colorado’s largest lake, with a total storage capacity of 940,700 acre-feetOpens in a new tab. and an active capacity of 748,430 acre-feet. At maximum water surface elevation, the reservoir occupies 9,180 acres. It will release 36,000 acre-feet in increments during August, September and October.

Navajo Reservoir (Lake), Colorado/New Mexico Border.

20,000 acre-feet of water will be released from Navajo Reservoir during November and December.  The reservoir has a total capacity of 1,708,600 acre-feetOpens in a new tab. and an active capacity of 1,036,100 acre-feet.

Bureau of Reclamation Projections.

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Reclamation predicted that there was a 79% chance of Lake Powell’s water elevation dipping below 3,525 feetOpens in a new tab. in the next year, risking damage  to Glen Canyon Dam’s power-generating turbines (the risk begins at 3,490 feet).

Wyoming Governor Convenes Working Group.

Although water right holders in the state are not affected by the releases into the Colorado River, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon is convening a Colorado River Working GroupOpens in a new tab..  In 2019, the state signed onto the Drought Contingency Plan alongside the other Colorado River Basin States and the Department of Interior.

Image:  Public domain via Wikimedia.  “Blue Mesa LandscapeOpens in a new tab.,” May 2020 by Mshuang2.


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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