Glen Canyon Dam Update Dec 2013 through June 2014

RRFW Riverwire - Glen Canyon Dam Update
December 12, 2013

Current Operations

In December, the release volume will likely be about 600 kaf, with fluctuations from about 6,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) in the nighttime to about 12,000 cfs in the daytime, consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997). In January, the release volume will likely be about 800 kaf with daily fluctuations for hydropower between 8,500 cfs and 16,500 cfs. The anticipated release volume for February is 600 kaf with daily flows close to December 2013 releases

Rough estimates at this time project that in March the expected release may be something close to 505 kaf (maybe up to 510 kaf, or so) with fluctuations between 6,000 cfs and 10,500 cfs or 11,000 cfs.

In April and May, releases are also expected to be very close to 500 kaf, with daily fluctuations similar to March releases. June is forecasted to be close to 600 kaf.

The operating tier for water year 2014 is the Mid-Elevation Release Tier with an annual release volume of 7.48 maf, as established in August 2013 and pursuant to the Interim Guidelines, Section 6.C.1. Reclamation will schedule operations at Glen Canyon Dam to achieve as practicably as possible a 7.48 maf annual release volume by September 30, 2014.

Releasing 7.48 maf this year instead of 8.23 means river runners will see lower monthly release volumes than they may have seen in the past.

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 1,200 cfs above or below the hourly scheduled release rate. Under system normal conditions, fluctuations for regulation are typically short lived and generally balance out over the hour with minimal or no 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 41 MW of reserves (approximately 1,200 cfs). Reserve calls can be maintained for a maximum of 2 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 much less than 41 MW.

Current Status

The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell in November was 460 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (97% of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in November was 680 kaf. On November 11-16 a high flow experimental release was conducted from Glen Canyon Dam in accordance with the High Flow Protocol. Reclamation released the maximum available capacity (35,000 cfs) during the 5-day experiment. The end of November elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3587.9 feet (112.1 feet from full pool) and 10.63 million acre-feet (maf) (44% of full capacity), respectively. The annual release volume from Lake Powell remains 7.48 maf and will not change as a result of the HFE. The reservoir elevation is now declining and will continue to decline through the fall and winter until spring runoff in 2014.

Inflow Forecasts and Model Projections
The hydrologic forecast for water year 2014 for Lake Powell, issued by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume will be 10.21 maf (94% of average based on the period 1981-2010). The water year 2014 forecast increased by 560 kaf since last month. At this early point in the season, there is still significant uncertainty regarding next year’s water supply. The forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 6.5 maf (60% of average) to a maximum probable of 16.5 maf (162% of average). There is a 10 percent chance that inflows could be higher than the maximum probable and a 10 percent chance they could be lower than the minimum probable.

Based on the current forecast, the December 24-Month study projects Lake Powell elevation will peak near approximately 3,608 ft next summer and end the water year near 3,603 feet with approximately 12.08 maf in storage (50% capacity). Note that projections of elevation and storage have significant uncertainty at this point in the season, primarily due to uncertainty regarding the upcoming winter’s total snowfall and the resulting inflow to Lake Powell. Under the minimum probable inflow scenario, last run in October, the projected summer peak is 3,586 ft and end of water year storage is 9.3 maf (38% capacity). Under the maximum probable inflow scenario, last run in October, the projected summer peak is 3,661 ft and end of water year storage is 18.4 maf (76% capacity). There is a 10 percent chance that inflows will be higher, resulting in higher elevation and storage, and 10 percent chance that inflows will be lower, resulting in lower elevation and storage. The minimum and maximum probable model runs will be updated in January. The annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2014 is projected to be 7.48 maf under all inflow scenarios.

Consistent with Section 6.C.1 of the Interim Guidelines, the Lake Powell operational tier for water year 2014 is the Mid-Elevation Release Tier with an annual release volume of 7.48 maf. This was determined in the August 2013 24-Month study tier determination run which projected that, with an 8.23 maf annual release pattern in water year 2014, the January 1, 2014, Lake Powell elevation would be below 3,575.0 feet and the Lake Mead elevation would be above 1,025.0 feet. This determination will be documented in the 2014 AOP, which is currently in the final stages of development.

Upper Colorado River Basin Hydrology

The Upper Colorado River Basin regularly experiences significant year to year hydrologic variability. During the 14-year period 2000 to 2013, however, the unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, which is a good measure of hydrologic conditions in the Colorado River Basin, was above average in only 3 out of the past 14 years. The period 2000-2014 is the lowest 14-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.25 maf, or 76% of the 30-year average (1981-2010). (For comparison, the 1981-2010 average is 10.83maf.) The unregulated inflow during the 2000-2013 period has ranged from a low of 2.64 maf (24% of average) in water year 2002 to a high of 15.97 maf (147% of average) in water year 2011. Under the current forecast, water year 2014 inflows to Lake Powell are expected to range between a minimum probable of 6.5 maf (60% of average) and a maximum probable of 16.5 maf (162% of average) with a most probable projection of 10.21 maf (94% of average).

At the beginning of water year 2014, total system storage in the Colorado River Basin was 29.9 maf (50% of 59.6 maf total system capacity). This is about 4 maf less than the total storage at the beginning of water year 2013 which began at 34.0 maf (57% of capacity). Since the beginning of water year 2000, total Colorado Basin storage has experienced year to year increases and decreases in response to wet and dry hydrology, ranging from a high of 94% of capacity at the beginning of 2000 to a low of 50% of capacity at the beginning of water year 2014. One wet year can significantly increase total system reservoir storage, just as persistent dry years can draw down the system storage. Based on current inflow forecasts, the current projected end of water year 2014 total Colorado Basin reservoir storage is approximately 31.1 maf (51% of capacity). The actual end of water year storage may vary significantly from this projection, primarily due to uncertainty regarding next season’s snowpack and resulting runoff.

This update courtesy of Katrina Grantz, Bureau of Reclamation

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