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U.S. Could Mandate Water Cuts To Preserve Colorado River Hydropower

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation is proposing changed guidelines in the water use along the Colorado River to address drought conditions and preserve Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams' hydropower generation and protect the dams from damage.

The changes could mean mandatory water use cuts in the worst-case scenario, according to Bloomberg.  

The Bureau of Reclamation published this week a draft environmental review outlining possible actions to cut water use and protect the dams.

“The need for the modified operating guidelines is based on the potential that continued low runoff conditions in the Colorado River Basin could lead Lake Powell and Lake Mead to decline to critically low elevations, impacting operations through the remainder of the interim period (prior to January 1, 2027),” Reclamation said in the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), which will be available for public comment for 45 calendar days.

The final SEIS is expected to be available this summer, while the document will inform the August 2023 decisions that will affect operations for Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams in 2024.

The draft SEIS analyzes three alternatives for future guidelines and water use from the Colorado River. One is a no-action alternative, a second is cuts in water use in the Lower Basin of the river according to the priority of users’ water rights. A third alternative is a mandate on water use among all downstream water users in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Reclamation hopes the states using the Colorado River will agree on how to use the water resources so the Interior will not have to resort to mandatory cuts, Deputy Interior Secretary Tommy Beaudreau said, as carried by Bloomberg.

Commenting on the release of the draft SEIS, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly said in a statement, “Today’s announcement underscores the urgent need for basin states to take the lead by coming to a long-term agreement to protect the Colorado River system.”  

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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