Lake Powell behind the Glen Canyon Dam. Photograph: Courtesy of and

The huge dams on the Colorado River had been supposed to guard us.

On the dedication of Hoover Dam, the colossus simply outdoors of Las Vegas created Lake Mead, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt celebrated “its contribution to the well being and luxury of the folks of America who stay within the Southwest.” The Glen Canyon Dam was constructed within the 1960’s into the crimson rocks of Glen Canyon to type Lake Powell. Floyd Dominy, the Reclamation Commissioner who presided over its building extolled that “you would not have anyplace close to the variety of folks dwelling comfortably within the West if you happen to hadn’t developed the tasks, if you happen to hadn’t managed the water.”

As we speak, the water saved behind them is so diminished that the federal authorities has warned of “system collapse.” The 2 reservoirs are dangerously near useless pool, the purpose at which the water degree sinks beneath the dams’ intakes. In danger are the 40 million individuals who depend on the Colorado River water provide and a considerable share of the U.S. agricultural economic system, to not point out the tons of of chicken species and each different dwelling factor that will depend on the basin’s rivers as habitat.

How did this occur? The river is legally overallocated, the basin is experiencing prolonged drought situations, and local weather warming is exacerbating the drought. Maybe most importantly, consumptive water makes use of prior to now 20 years have exceeded provide. Moderately than lowering water makes use of somewhat bit yr over yr, those that management the river (water customers, state and federal companies) largely sustained consumptive makes use of by draining these reservoirs. Now that they’re almost emptied, that technique received’t work anymore, and the area is in for a tough transition.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation has initiated a course of to considerably scale back water releases from Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams as quickly as subsequent yr (see “Discover of Intent to Put together a Supplemental Environmental Influence Assertion for the December 2007 Report of Resolution Entitled Colorado River Interim Pointers for Decrease Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations For Lake Powell and Lake Mead” as printed in Federal Register Discover – 87 FR 69042 on November 17, 2022). It will enable Reclamation to alter Colorado River operations within the near-term with out having to enact “emergency measures” (learn: not topic to environmental overview) as they did in 2022. That is happening on the identical time that Reclamation is working with stakeholders on a longer-term course of to revise Colorado River working guidelines post-2026.

In response to Reclamation’s most up-to-date request for public remark relating to near-term adjustments to Colorado River operations, Audubon submitted a letter asking for issues for birds and different dwelling issues that rely on the river. We anticipate to remark once more as soon as Reclamation points a draft plan, doubtless in March.