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Colorado Basin states cut back water flow to deal with low reservoir levels

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Twenty-thirteen marks the 14th year of the worst drought in the past century, so Colorado River Basin states are following 2007 agreement guidelines, and releasing less water from a major reservoir, Lake Powell.

Only 7.48 million acre feet will be released from Lake Powell next water year, down about 9% from normal levels. It’s the lowest release since the 1960s.   

John Shields, of the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, says stakeholder states, like Wyoming, are concerned about low water levels, but have been planning for them. Shields says water shortages are not expected, but communities which get electricity from the system might see higher utility bills.

“There is a likelihood that they may end up paying more for the electricity that they are receiving from the Colorado River Storage Project System, as it’s known. The reason that they might have to pay more for that electricity is that as reservoir elevations fall the amount of electricity that can be generated at those dams decreases,” Shields says. 

Between 11,000 and 12,000 customers use power generated by this system.

There is a lot of variability within the system, and good winter snow pack could help, but managers are also preparing for continuing drought.  

Irina Zhorov is a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She earned her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from the University of Wyoming. In between, she worked as a photographer and writer for Philadelphia-area and national publications. Her professional interests revolve around environmental and energy reporting and she's reported on mining issues from Wyoming, Mexico, and Bolivia. She's been supported by the Dick and Lynn Cheney Grant for International Study, the Eleanor K. Kambouris Grant, and the Social Justice Research Center Research Grant for her work on Bolivian mining and Uzbek alpinism. Her work has appeared on Voice of America, National Native News, and in Indian Country Today, among other publications.
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