May 12, 2022 |
Rawlins is not alone in expressing alarm over water levels this summer. The worst drought in over 1,000 years is causing concern across the West.
Electric power to seven states is endangered because of low water levels in Lake Powell on the Colorado River. Potable drinking water in Northern Arizona is also threatened. To avoid catastrophe, Flaming Gorge Reservoir will drop at least six feet over the summer – and more into next year – as federal officials look to prop up the artificial lake on the Utah-Arizona border. The release of 500,000 acre feet of water from Flaming Gorge began last week.
In Nevada, the remains of what are believed to be one-time Las Vegas mobsters are turning up as Lake Mead drops to unprecedented levels. They’re not the only skeletons of the past turning up as the drought worsens. The details of water compacts governing the Colorado River Basin, written in 1922 when water was plentiful, are also drawing attention.
Those agreements took center stage when the Wyoming Legislature’s Select Water Committee met Thursday. Chris Brown who supervises the water section of the state attorney general’s office set the stage for lawmakers.
Pictured above: File photo of the Encampment River. Photo by Bigfoot 99/Emma Diercks.
At Lee’s Ferry, the physical and spiritual heart of water wars in the West, boat launches and recreation sites are closed because of conditions. If the water level in Lake Powell drops too, low, the so-called upper basin states along the Colorado River will not be able to deliver the amount of water required under the 1922 compact between the seven participating states and Mexico. That could mean a number of things for Wyoming, Brown explained, including the curtailment of consumptive use.
Wyoming and other states are scrambling to avoid that scenario. The meeting began with the discussion of a Pilot Water Program. A working group formed by Governor Mark Gordon has been at work for year looking at ways to address the crisis.
The governor is working is looking at options like water banking, demand management programs and voluntary curtailment of use to stave off regulatory calls on Wyoming and other upper basin states. Sen. Larry Hicks of Baggs told the water committee that the working group is looking at all options given the dire strait of the Colorado.
The Select Water committee meets again today with cloud seeding in the Medicine Bow and the Sierra Madre mountain ranges on the agenda.