Colorado River releases planned for upper basin reservoirs

Blue Mesa Reservoir is one of three upper basin reservoirs scheduled to release additional water into the Colorado River system.

Decreasing water levels at Lake Powel and Lake Mead, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation,  have triggered the Upper Basin Drought Response Operations Agreement (DROA) under the Colorado River Basin Compact.  Three upstream reservoirs will be releasing 181,000 acre-feet of water 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 Dam 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-feet 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-feet 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 feet 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 Group.  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 Landscape,” 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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