Letter: Another option for Lake Powell
The article by Michael Booth of The Colorado Sun on the plan to drain three reservoirs to “protect Lake Powell’s hydroelectric pool“ fails to point out the biggest flaws in that idea: leakage and evaporation.
Yes, extended drought and climate change are surely major factors in the steady lowering of Lake Powell‘s water level. Yes, Lake Powell is at the point where, without releasing water from further upstream, it is no longer viable for power generation. Yes, streamflows and citizens and businesses, and especially farmers, in the Upper Compact states will be severely affected by opening the sluices upstream and allowing water to drain into Lake Powell. That will not solve the problem and the reported statement by Christopher Cutler of the Bureau of Reclamation, when asked about what the plan is if there is no drought relief, that “we are preparing for that now, by modeling” is indicative that there is no Plan C.
So what is the flaw in all of these plans for filling Lake Powell that Michael Booth fails to mention? A 2015 ProPublica article on the viability of Lake Powell gives a good explanation. The following is an extract:
“Lake Powell leaks like a sieve. As much as 123 billion gallons of water — 2.6 percent of the entire flow of the Colorado River — seeps into fissures in the porous sandstone underlying the lake and disappears each year.
Another 168 billion gallons evaporates off the surface annually, as the sprawling lake bakes in the arid desert climate.
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A facility whose central purpose is to save water instead loses a mind-boggling amount of it. Were Lake Powell to go away, the American Southwest would have approximately 6 percent more water overnight.”
Lake Powell should surely be decommissioned and allowed to return to its original state. There is your Plan C. I wonder if the modeling by the Bureau will agree?
Nicholas T Fickling