The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell in March was 362 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (54% of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in March was 601 kaf. The end of March elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3599.0 feet (101 feet from full pool) and 11.65 million acre-feet (maf) (48% of full capacity). The reservoir elevation will continue to decline until snowmelt and spring runoff begin to fill the reservoir in late spring.
The operating tier for 2013 is the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier, as establish in August 2012 and pursuant to the Interim Guidelines. The April 24-Month Study projects the end of water year elevation at Lake Powell to be 3,584.13 feet and Lake Mead to be 1,104.18 feet. Since the projected end of water year elevation at Lake Powell is below the 2013 Equalization Elevation of 3,646.0 feet and the projected end of water year elevation at Lake Mead is above elevation 1,075.0 feet, Section 6.B.1 of the Interim Guidelines provide for an annual release volume of 8.23 maf from Lake Powell during water year 2013. Reclamation will schedule operations at Glen Canyon Dam to achieve as practicably as possible an 8.23 maf annual release volume by September 30, 2013.
Releases from Glen Canyon Dam in April are currently averaging approximately 9,600 cubic feet per second (cfs) with daily fluctuations between approximately 6,500 cfs at nighttime and approximately 11,500 cfs during the daytime and consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997). The scheduled release volume for April 2013 is 550 kaf.
In May, the release volume will likely be about 600 kaf, with fluctuations for hydropower between approximately 7,000 cfs at nighttime and approximately 13,000 cfs in the daytime. In addition, to accommodate airborne data collection, steady releases of approximately 8,000 cfs are tentatively planned near the end of May, beginning on or about Saturday May 25 and lasting for about one week. In June, the release volume will likely be about 800 kaf with fluctuations between approximately 9,000 cfs and 17,000 cfs.
In addition to daily scheduled fluctuations for power generation, the instantaneous releases from Glen Canyon Dam may also fluctuate to provide 40 MW of system regulation. These instantaneous release adjustments stabilize the electrical generation and transmission system and translate to a range of about 1,100 cfs above or below the hourly scheduled release rate. Typically, fluctuations for system regulation are very short lived and balance out over the hour and do not have noticeable impacts on downstream river flow conditions.
Releases from Glen Canyon Dam can also fluctuate beyond scheduled fluctuations for power generation when called upon as a partner that shares reserve requirements within the electrical generator community (i.e. balancing area). Reserves provide system reliability in the event of an unscheduled outage. Glen Canyon Dam typically maintains 43 megawatts (MW) of reserves (approximately 1,100 cfs). Reserve calls can be maintained for a maximum of two hours after which time the generation rate should be returned to the original schedule. If reserves from Glen Canyon Dam are called upon, releases from the dam can exceed scheduled levels and can have a noticeable impact on the river downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. Calls for reserves are fairly infrequent and typically are for less than 43 MW and typically less than two hours.
Inflow Forecasts and Model Projections
The hydrologic forecast for Lake Powell for the April to July water supply season projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume will be 2.7 maf (38% of average based on the period 1981-2010). The forecast has continued to decrease throughout the winter and spring season. Based on the current forecast, the April 24- Month study projects the end of water year reservoir elevation and storage for Lake Powell will be 3584.1 and 10.30 maf (42% capacity), respectively, which is below the 2013 Equalization Elevation of 3,646feet. Therefore, consistent with the Interim Guidelines, the annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2013 is scheduled to be 8.23 maf. Reclamation will schedule operations at Glen Canyon Dam to achieve as practicably as possible an 8.23 maf annual release volume by September 30, 2013.
Consistent with the Interim Guidelines, if the August 24-Month study projects the January 1, 2014, Lake Powell elevation to be less than 3,575.0 feet and at or above 3,525.0 feet and the Lake Mead elevation to be at or above 1,025.0 feet, the operational tier for Lake Powell in water year 2014 will be the Mid-Elevation Release Tier and the water year release volume from Lake Powell will be 7.48 maf. This April 2013 24- Month study projects that, with an 8.23 maf annual release pattern in water year 2014, the January 1, 2014, Lake Powell elevation would be 3,573.66 feet and the Lake Mead elevation would be 1,107.60 feet. Therefore, the 2014 Lake Powell operational tier is currently projected to be the Mid-Elevation Release Tier with an annual release volume of 7.48 maf. Based on analysis of a range of inflow scenarios, the current probability of realizing an inflow volume that would result in the Mid-Elevation Release Tier and a 7.48 maf annual release from Lake Powell in 2014 is approximately 65 percent.
Upper Colorado River Basin Hydrology
Since 2005, the Upper Colorado River Basin has experienced significant year to year hydrologic variability. The unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, which is a good measure of hydrologic conditions in the Colorado River Basin, has averaged a water year volume of 10.22 maf (94% of average (period 1981-2010)) during the period from 2005 through 2012. The hydrologic variability during this period has been from a low water year unregulated inflow volume of4.91 maf (45% of average) in water year 2012 to a high water year unregulated inflow volume of15.97 maf (147% of average) in water year 2011. Based on observed inflows and current forecasts, water year 2013 unregulated inflow is expected to be4.53 maf (42% of average), which would be the second below- average year in a row.
At the beginning of water year 2013, overall reservoir storage in the Colorado River Basin had increased by approximately 4 maf compared with water year 2005, which was an improvement over the persistent drought conditions of 2000 through 2004. Total reservoir storage in the Colorado River Basin had increased from 29.8 maf (50% of capacity) at the beginning of 2005 to 33.9 maf (57 % of capacity) at the beginning of 2013. However, during this period, total Colorado Basin storage experienced year to year increases and decreases in response to wet and dry hydrology. In addition, conditions in 2013 have been drier than average and given observed inflows and current forecasts, the projected end of water year 2013 total reservoir storage is approximately 29.1 maf (49% of capacity).
This update courtesy of Katrina Grantz, Bureau of Reclamation