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The many conversations in the Colorado River Basin to prepare for different reservoir operations by 12/31/2025
February 21, 2020
Note: This site will be modified on a regular basis; this piece is a work in progress.
A chronology of the conversations initiated in 2005 for the development of Shortage Criteria Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and finalized as 2007 Interim Guidelines EIS.
2005 - Mid-Year Review. On page 3, in response to increasing aridity, Interior Secretary Gale Norton advises the seven states of the Colorado River Basin (CRB) that:
"...the Department intends to issue a notice through the Federal Register on or before June 15, 2005 to begin work on these matters. At a minimum, we will address the following matters in our upcoming Federal Register notice : 1) Development of Lower Basin Shortage Guidelines, and, 2) Development of Conjunctive Management Guidelines for Lake Powell and Lake Mead. It is my expectation that, regardless of the particular process utilized, the Department will complete these processes by December 2007." (page 3)
"This report points to several important scientific findings as they relate to Colorado River hydrology and climate. It also includes findings related to cooperation among the basin states and between scientists and water managers. It recommends that a comprehensive assessment of contemporary urban water management practices and other relevant water supply-demand issues be conducted, and that this assessment consider issues such as implications of agriculture-to-urban water transfers and regional water demand forecasting. In doing so, it defines an action-oriented study that could provide a more systematic blueprint for better managing water across the rapidly-growing and arid Colorado River basin. The cooperation that such a study would entail could also be useful. As the Colorado River basin enters another phase of coping with aridity and drought, future challenges promise to be more exacting than those faced in the past. As such, good scientific information, and good cooperation and communication at all levels, will be more important than ever."2008 - When Will Lake Mead Go Dry? From the Introduction:
"A water budget analysis shows that under current conditions [2007 Interim Guidelines] there is a 10% chance that live storage in Lakes Mead and Powell will be gone by about 2013 and a 50% chance that it will be gone by 2021 if no changes in water allocation from the Colorado River system are made. This startling result is driven by climate change associated with global warming, the effects of natural climate variability, and the current operating status of the reservoir system. Minimum power pool levels in both Lake Mead and Lake Powell will be reached under current conditions by 2017 with 50% probability.* While these dates are subject to some uncertainty, they all point to a major and immediate water supply problem on the Colorado system. The solutions to this water shortage problem must be time-dependent to match the time-varying, human-induced decreases in future river flow."
*Note: In 2014 the state of Colorado acknowledged potential hydropower loss at Glen Canyon Dam in this memo and recommended initiating contingency planning as the appropriate response.
1937 - Unversity of Arizona - Pioneers in the assessment of climate regimes in the Holocene Epoch in regards to aridity, pluvials and floods. This includes dendrochronoly (Andrew Ellicott Douglass) and paleoflood hydrology (Victor R. Baker), and other interdisciplenary sciences related to geochronology.
1957 - Scripps Institute - Pioneers on the effects of greenhouse gases that initiated global warming based on time-proven accuracy and consistant appeals to society to initiate climate adaptation programs.
We start this conversation with a paper that was written in 1956 and published in 1957 by Roger R. Revelle and Hans E. Suess called, “Carbon Dioxide Exchange Between Atmosphere and Ocean and the Question of an Increase of Atmospheric CO, during the Past Decades.” Revelle and Suess tested a hypothesis that carbon dioxide molecules in the atmosphere, from burning fossil fuels since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, were being sequestered in the sedimentary rock layers under the ocean. Their findings demonstrated that the transfer of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the ocean had already reached its saturation point before 1956. Therefore, the increasing load of carbon-based emissions would remain in the atmosphere and create a greenhouse effect, and then global temperatures would progressively rise and the heat would increase the mean temperatures of the atmosphere and ocean. They admitted that further research was required, which they provided in 1983.
That research was published by Roger R. Revelle and Paul E. Waggoner and called, Effects of a Carbon Dioxide-Induced Climatic Change on Water Supplies in the Western United States. When this paper was published, every reservoir in the CRB was brim full. However, the data and equations in this document are stunning and the climate scientists of the 21st century have since confirmed the accuracy of their temperature projections.
The cautionary summary of this 1983 paper by Revelle and Waggoneer, is as follows: "Planning and construction of major water-resource systems have a time constant of 30 to 50 years. In the past, these activities have been based on the explicit assumption of unchanging climate. The probable serious economic and social consequences of a carbon dioxide-induced climatic change within the next 50 to 100 years warrant careful consideration by planners of ways to create more robust and resilient water-resource systems that will, insofar as possible, mitigate these effects."
List: Relevant papers from Scripps Institute
2010 - COLORADO RIVER GOVERANCE INITIATIVE at CU Boulder
2014 - COLORADO RIVER RESEARCH GROUP at CU Boulder
2016 - WATER JUSTICE SYMPOSIUM at CU BOULDER & UW Laramie
2016 - CENTER FOR COLORADO RIVER STUDIES at USU Logan
2017 - CENTER FOR CLIMATE ADAPTATION SCIENCE AND SOLUTIONS at UA Tucson
Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Polivy @ UM Missoula
WTI Document (2020): Toward a Sense of the Basin
2019 - SCREE at UW Laramie
GETCHES - WILKINSON CENTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES, ENERGY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT AT COLORADO LAW
2019 - 40th Annual GWC Summer Conference: Charting a Better Course for the Colorado River: Identifying the Data and Concepts to Shape the Interim Guidelines Renegotiation
PART TWO - THE STRUCTURAL DEFICIT
PART THREE - DEMAND MANAGMENT
PART FOUR - THE GRAND BARGAIN
The Grand Bargain involves capping the present total depletions of the Upper Basin in exchange for eliminating the Compact obligation of Upper Basin delivering 75 million acre feet every 10-years to the Lower Basin at Lee Ferry, AZ. This plan would eliminate the possibility of a “Compact Call” (curtailments to the Upper Basin) with the Lower Basin, but it would not eliminate the risk of curtailment within the Upper Basin itself, especially for LPP since it is resides in the Lower Basin.
This idea is essentially a rewrite of the Colorado River Compact of 1922 and this conversation should have happened immediatley following the USA Senate's appproval of the Mexican Treaty in 1944. If not then, most definately after the conclusion of USA Supreme Court decision of Arizona vs California in 1963. The tardniness about moving in this direction is why Lakes Powell and Mead will fall to empty, with or without the depletion of global warming impacts.
Memo (2/7/20) from Bureau of Reclamation about the Section 7.D review of Interim Guidelines, now underway until December of 2020. In his 12/13/2019 remarks at Annual Conference of Colorado River Water Users Association (video), Interior Secretary Bernhardt stated:
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION OF 7D REVIEW
7D Review: Letters of Submission
THE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE FOR 2007 INTERIM GUIDELINES
ROD; Page 4
1. discrete levels of shortage volumes associated with Lake Mead elevations to conserve reservoir storage and provide water users and managers in the Lower Basin with greater certainty to know when, and by how much, water deliveries will be reduced in drought and other low reservoir conditions;
ROD; pages 5 & 6
1. A “Normal Condition” exists when the Secretary determines that sufficient mainstream water is available to satisfy 7.5 million acre-feet (maf) of annual consumptive use in the Lower Division states (Arizona, California, and Nevada). If a state will not use all of its apportioned water for the year, the Secretary may allow other states of the Lower Division to use the unused apportionment, provided that the use is authorized by a water delivery contract with the Secretary.
ROD; Section 6 on page 49
The Active Storage of water in Lakes Mead and Powell will be balanced before January 1st of each year. Active Storage refers to sufficient reservoir levels to keep hydropower operational. Hydropower production is a contract obligation. The water level below safe hydropower operations is called Inactive Storage. For Lake Mead this level begins at 1045 feet (27% of full capacity) and for Lake Powell this level begins at 3525 feet (35% of full capacity). Note: The ROD does not provide this level of detail.
Intenionally Created Surplus (ICS)
Page 11 - It is anticipated that the maximum cumulative amount of ICS would be 2.1 maf pursuant to Section XI.D. of this ROD; however, the potential effects of a maximum cumulative amount of ICS of up to 4.2 maf have been analyzed in the Final EIS. This alternative also includes modification and extension of the ISG (Interim Surplus Criteria) through 2026.
IMPLEMENTATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITMENTS (page 16)
Page ?? - Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (LCRMSCP)
PART SIX - THE MISSING ISSUES
PART SEVEN - WHAT WE KNOW
PART EIGHT - RELEASE FROM THE HYDRAULIC TRAP
Epilogue: Rivers of Empire. Donald Worster.
A prevalent conception for the water managers of the Colorado River Basin is that the system can only be changed incrementally by working within the established legal frameworks and the water delivery infrastructure. However, this preference toward gradual change is not time-scaled to be effective over time:
TO BE CONTINUED
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