The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell in December was 294 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (81% of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in December was 601 kaf. The end of December elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3584.4 feet (115.6 feet from full pool) and 10.16 million acre-feet (maf) (42% of full capacity), respectively. The reservoir elevation is now declining and will continue to decline through the winter until spring runoff. Snowpack is currently about 96% of median for this time of year.
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.
In January, the release volume will likely be about 800 kaf, with fluctuations from about 8,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) in the nighttime to about 16,500 cfs in the daytime and consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997). In February, the release volume will likely be about 600 kaf with daily fluctuations for hydropower.
In addition to daily scheduled fluctuations for power generation, the instantaneous releases from Glen Canyon Dam may also fluctuate to provide 40 Megawatts (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.
Inflow Forecasts and Model Projections
The forecast for the 2014 April to July water supply season for Lake Powell, issued by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume will be 6.81 maf (95% of average based on the period 1981-2010). The winter snow accumulation season has started off near average (currently 96% of median), however, at this early point in the season, there is still significant uncertainty regarding the final snowpack and resulting runoff. The April-July forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 4.0 maf (56% of average) to a maximum probable of 10.2 maf (142% of average). (For reference, the 30-year April-Juny average is 7.16 maf.) 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 January 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 12.04 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 season’s total snowpack and the resulting inflow to Lake Powell. Under the minimum probable inflow scenario, updated in January, the projected summer peak is 3,592 ft and end of water year storage is 9.7 maf (40% capacity). Under the maximum probable inflow scenario, updated in January, the projected summer peak is 3,631 ft and end of water year storage is 15.0 maf (62% 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 again in April. 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 and documented in the 2014 Annual Operating Plan signed by Secretary Jewell in December 2013.
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 total water year 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, total water year 2014 inflows to Lake Powell are expected to range between a minimum probable of 6.9 maf (64% of average) and a maximum probable of 14.1 maf (130% of average) with a most probable projection of 10.09 maf (93% 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 29.9 maf (50% 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.
Based on January minimum and maximum probable inflow forecasts and modeling the range is approximately 26.9 maf (45%) to 33.6 maf (56%), respectively.
This update courtesy of Katrina Grantz, Bureau of Reclamation