Hello Friends of the Colorado River!
It’s been a really weird week in the Southwest U.S.! As usual our mountains play a significant role in weather patterns and who gets wet and who stays dry. Record rainstorms, flooding, and associated chaos unraveled life in the Denver region and in Northern Colorado on the east slope of the Continental Divide. Loss of life and property damage was staggering as floods tore down canyons and ripped homes and roads off their moorings. We are saddened by the impacts and the loss of life. If you have been affected by this horrible flooding, we are very sorry for your loss and hope the recovery can be a speedy one.
At the same time that the east slope of Colorado saw torrential rains, most of Western Colorado and the Southwest U.S. continued its ongoing drought. The “monsoon” season in Arizona and Utah provided some rains that temporarily raised the level of Lake Powell by a foot or so, but overall in the Colorado River system, nothing has changed in terms of water supplies and the ongoing drought. Here’s a news story about some of the minor flooding in Arizona from the monsoon season which turned rivers and streams muddy and raised the level of Lake Powell.
All Eyes On Las Vegas as Pat Mulroy Retires! At the same time that northeast Colorado got swamped, Las Vegas is still in misery over the dropping levels of Lake Mead. In this news article from the Las Vegas Sun, Vegas’ Water Czar, Pat Mulroy, continues to grapple with whether Vegas will finish its pipe under Lake Mead in time to save its water supply lifeline. And then, lo and behold, just on Monday, Mulroy announced that she is retiring! That’s big news — Mulroy was one of the central characters in the Colorado River story over the last 25 years. She was an outspoken proponent of most every dam, reservoir, pipeline, and diversion project, and put Vegas’ money where its mouth is to move her ideas forward. At the same time, Vegas made huge strides in water conservation and in ripping out lawns. Mulroy was also a strong proponent of the agreement to restore the Colorado River Delta, deftly playing the cards so that some of Mexico’s water is stored in Lake Mead to benefit Las Vegas. Mulroy’s contribution to Vegas and the Colorado River story will be talked about for a long time. Here, the Las Vegas Review-Journal breaks the story of her retirement announcement.
Will Powell and Mead hydro-power short circuit? As Lake Powell and Lake Mead continue their long-term decline, so does their ability to generate hydro-power for the Southwest U.S. This story in IEEE Spectrum focuses on the electric side of the Colorado River story. While most people (including us) focus on the water side of the story, the electric side of the story is as fascinating and controversial, and it could be electric generation that drives water policy as much as water supply politics. If hydro-power generation is lost, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year will also be lost, which could cause electric rates to increase in Southern California as well as ongoing problems with the rolling blackouts that plague the Los Angeles area. Currently, both hydro-power plants on the dams are working well below capacity due to low lake levels — this and other concerns about water evaporation and seepage continue to raise the idea of “Filling Lake Mead First,” a proposal by the Glen Canyon Institute that could help to shore up both electricity and water supplies.
Stay tuned for more weekly updates and calls to action!