CHEYENNE — Gov. Mark Gordon is convening a Colorado River Working Group that will meet regularly to discuss important Colorado River matters and monitor potential impacts to Wyoming, according to a news release from his office Friday.
The action comes in response to drought conditions in the Colorado, Green and Little Snake River basins that have led the Bureau of Reclamation to announce drawdowns from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in order to maintain minimum levels at Lake Powell.
At this time, no restrictions on Wyoming water users are proposed.
“The West finds itself facing unprecedented drought conditions, and Wyoming must be prepared to address the potential future impacts of water shortages,” Gordon said in the release. “It is important that local perspectives on issues that impact our water users and the state are heard and included in the process. I want to ensure that representatives of key water use sectors are able to provide input on this crisis, which is challenging us today and may last for years.”
The working group is made up of representatives of key water use sectors of the Green and Little Snake River Basins, including agricultural, municipal, industrial and environmental interests.
The group will discuss and share Colorado River information with interested stakeholders in the Green and Little Snake River Basins. It is a continuation of a coordinated and proactive outreach effort that has been underway in Wyoming since 2019.
More information about the Colorado River Working Group’s inaugural public meeting will be available soon.
In its 24-month study, released Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation confirms continual declining hydrologic conditions for the Colorado River system. The results show that drought response releases from key Reclamation reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin – including Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming and Utah – will be necessary starting this summer.
Based on the bureau’s announcement, 125,000 acre-feet of water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir will be released to protect storage elevations in Lake Powell. These releases will be staged July through October and will likely result in Flaming Gorge water elevation dropping an additional 3.5 feet by mid-autumn.
No Wyoming water rights are tied to the water being released, so no Wyoming water right holders will be affected.
Friday’s announcement from the bureau underscores that water supply throughout the West is becoming less reliable, especially in the Colorado River Basin.
Gordon is committed to ensuring that Wyoming’s water users are protected under the state’s apportionments provided for under the 1922 Colorado River and 1948 Upper Colorado River Basin Compacts, according to the release.
The governor is also committed to continuing collaboration on water management and operation solutions that provide overall water supply reliability and certainty, as well as meeting compact and treaty obligations and maintaining environmental commitments, all of which make the system work for all who depend on the Colorado River.
Knowing the increasing risks, Wyoming has planned ahead.
In 2019, Wyoming signed onto the Drought Contingency Plan alongside the other Colorado River Basin States and the Department of Interior.
This plan helps protect critical elevations at Lake Powell, which is an important insurance policy for Wyoming to bolster the state’s ability to maintain and develop its water uses while also satisfying its compact obligations.
The drought response releases are part of the plan’s overall strategy to help prevent curtailment triggers under the 1922 Compact.