Citing success, Utah moves to stop sending Flaming Gorge water downstream

February 27, 2023

For immediate release

Citing success, Utah moves to stop sending Flaming Gorge water downstream

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (February 27, 2023) — Utah and its three sister states in the Upper Colorado River Basin voted to suspend additional releases at Flaming Gorge, starting March 1. 

“The releases from Flaming Gorge succeeded in protecting critical elevations at Lake Powell” said Utah’s River Commissioner Gene Shawcroft, who chairs the Colorado River Authority of Utah. “Given the operation’s success and improving hydrology, it’s time to stop sending water downstream and start focusing on restoring Flaming Gorge.” 

Now experts agree there is little chance that Lake Powell will fall to elevation 3,490 in the near term. 

The Bureau of Reclamation has yet to approve the modification.

Why it matters
For almost a year, water has flowed from Flaming Gorge to Lake Powell to protect critical infrastructure and continue the generation of electricity at Glen Canyon Dam. However, given wetter-than-average conditions in the Colorado River Basin and resulting increases in levels at Lake Powell projected to occur this spring, water managers in Utah say the releases achieved their intended purpose and now it is time to stop additional releases and begin putting water back into Flaming Gorge reservoir.

Go deeper
In March 2022, Lake Powell dropped below 3,525 feet in elevation, raising concerns water levels would soon drop to an elevation of 3,490 feet, limiting the release of water from Lake Powell and jeopardizing the ability to generate hydroelectric power. 

In response, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, together with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, created a plan to release 500,000 acre-feet of water from Flaming Gorge to Lake Powell over a twelve-month period.  

The plan was authorized by the Drought Response Operations Agreement, an element of the Drought Contingency Plan passed by Congress in 2019 and signed into law by President Donald Trump, which outlines specific actions to avoid dangerously low water levels at Lake Powell. 

Colorado River Authority of Utah
Established in 2021, the Colorado River Authority of Utah is a state agency with a mission to protect, use, conserve, and develop Utah’s Colorado River system interests. The Authority collaborates with peer agencies in the six other Colorado River Basin states. Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah make up the Upper Division States, while Arizona, California, and Nevada are the Lower Basin States. Follow the Authority on Twitter @AuthorityUT
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Marty Carpenter