Colorado River States Submit a Consensus-Based Modeling Alternative to Bureau of Reclamation

January 31, 2023
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Six states reach consensus on criteria for environmental review to help protect lakes Powell and Mead

January 30, 2023 – Today, states sharing the Colorado River submitted a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) that outlines a Consensus-Based Modeling Alternative for Reclamation to evaluate and incorporate into its development of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to revise current Operating Guidelines (’07 Guidelines) for Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell and Hoover Dam at Lake Mead.

“The challenge we continue to face is dry hydrology and depleted storage across the Colorado River Basin,” said Gene Shawcroft P.E, Utah Colorado River Commissioner. “The CBMA provides a path forward so that every state can contribute to finding a solution in close collaboration with our Tribes and water users.”

Revisions to the ’07 Guidelines are necessary to protect critical elevations and infrastructure within the two reservoirs to ensure the Colorado River system – which has been significantly impacted by more than two decades of prolonged drought exacerbated by clime change and depleted storage – can continue to serve more than 40 million people, approximately 5.5 million acres of irrigated farmland, Basin Tribes, environmental resources, and power production across seven states and portions of Mexico.

The states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming jointly submitted the Consensus-Based Modeling Alternative, and the states remain committed to working cooperatively with their local water users, the federal government, other Basin States, Basin Tribes, non-governmental organizations and stakeholders throughout Reclamation’s environmental review and in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

While the Consensus-Based Modeling Alternative is not a formal agreement between the Colorado River Basin States, it serves as an alternative framework for Reclamation to analyze in its SEIS process. It provides an approach to help protect Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam infrastructure, water deliveries, and power production to mitigate the risk of either Lake Powell or Lake Mead reaching dead pool.

The Consensus-Based Modeling Alternative includes, but is not limited to, the following modeling criteria for Reclamation to consider and analyze:

  • Adjustments to the existing ‘07 Guidelines, including reduced releases from Lake Powell and Lake Mead to ensure the deliverability of water downstream and power production.
  • Adjustments to Lower Basin contributions required under Drought Contingency Plan.
  • Accounting for more than 1.5 million acre-feet of losses within the Lower Basin that are necessary to protect infrastructure.
  • Additional combined reductions of 250,000 acre-feet to Arizona, California and Nevada at Lake Mead elevation 1,030 feet and below.
  • Additional combined reductions of 200,000 acre-feet to Arizona, California and Nevada at Lake Mead elevation 1,020 feet and below, as well as additional reductions necessary to protect Lake Mead elevation 1,000 feet.
  • Actions outlined within the Upper Basin State’s Drought Response Operations Agreement.
  • Additional voluntary conservation measures that take into account hydrologic shortage in the Upper Division States.

A copy of the Consensus-Based Modeling Alternative is linked here.