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States agree to release more Colorado River water to keep Lake Powell generating power

Posted at 9:54 AM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 19:27:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico have jointly agreed to release more water from Flaming Gorge down the Colorado River to keep Lake Powell generating electricity.

WATCH: Optimism over tourism remains despite Lake Powell's historically low water levels

In a statement, the Colorado River Authority of Utah said it was in response to the ongoing drought. The release of 500,000 acre feet of water from Flaming Gorge will begin May 1 and end in April 2023.

"The water level at Lake Powell has dropped much more rapidly than our models anticipated and has made it necessary for us to take expedited measures to address the situation. Fortunately, our sister states in the Upper Colorado River basin and the Bureau of Reclamation have recognized the severity of the situation and we were able to form a plan for the next 12-month period that is in everyone’s best interest," Gene Shawcroft, Chair of the Colorado River Authority of Utah, said in a statement.

More water may be released from Colorado's Blue Mesa Reservoir and New Mexico's Navajo Reservoir later this year, depending on the situation with the drought. Lake Powell has dropped below 3,525 feet in elevation. If it drops below 3,490 feet, air gets into turbines and it makes it difficult to generate hydroelectric power.

The decision to release water from Flaming Gorge means the recreation area will drop 15-feet.

On Thursday, Governor Spencer Cox announced a new state of emergency for drought in Utah.