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favorable compared to other states as far as having enough water for the future” but that drought and climate change threaten that stability. “We are dedicated to being able to

protect water users in case those things happen,” he said. “When you’re talking about a curtailment of uses upstream due to downstream needs, how do we use that apportionment to keep our water users whole or basically healthy moving forward.”

Planning For More Drought

Even as each individual state considers its options for developing more of its Colorado River apportionment, the two basins are collectively working together under a 2014 mandate issued by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for both basins to develop drought contingency plans that would preserve reservoir levels at Lake

Lake Mead in 2012.

“The folks in the Upper Basin are very nervous about whether the Lower Basin can stabilize Lake Mead.”

– Doug Kenney, Western Water Policy Program

Powell and Lake Mead. Since that time, representatives from the seven states have been working on the means to voluntarily take cutbacks in lieu of a decision handed down from Washington, D.C. “We continue to refine a Drought Contingency Plan, working with Reclamation, and are in the process of finalizing that operational plan for how to protect low reservoir elevations in Lake Powell,” said Ostler with the Upper Colorado River Commission. Te plan contemplates using the ma- jor components of the Colorado River Storage Project – Flaming Gorge at the Wyoming-Utah border, the Aspinall

Unit in Colorado and Navajo Reservoir in New Mexico – to transfer water into Lake Powell in the event of severe drought and low reservoir conditions. Te drought plan is designed to protect Lake Powell’s ability to produce hydro- electric power, the loss of which would be a problem because more than 75 percent of the Upper Basin’s generation capacity comes from Glen Canyon Dam. Te risk of Lake Powell’s elevation falling to such precipitous levels “is a low probability, but with very severe consequences,” Ostler said. Te risk of shortage in the Lower Basin “is much higher.” Saving water also could mean pay- ing people who volunteer not to use it. Tat’s the intent of the Pilot System Water Conservation Program, which compensates those in the Upper Basin for actions that save water such as

8 • Colorado River Project • River Report • Winter 2016-2017

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