Citing success, Utah moves to stop sending Flaming Gorge water downstream

Citing success, Utah moves to stop sending Flaming Gorge water downstream

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (February 27, 2023) — Utah and its three sister states in the Upper Colorado River Basin voted to suspend additional releases at Flaming Gorge, starting March 1. 

“The releases from Flaming Gorge succeeded in protecting critical elevations at Lake Powell” said Utah’s River Commissioner Gene Shawcroft, who chairs the Colorado River Authority of Utah. “Given the operation’s success and improving hydrology, it’s time to stop sending water downstream and start focusing on restoring Flaming Gorge.” 

Now experts agree there is little chance that Lake Powell will fall to elevation 3,490 in the near term. 

The Bureau of Reclamation has yet to approve the modification.

Why it mattersFor almost a year, water has flowed from Flaming Gorge to Lake Powell to protect critical infrastructure and continue the generation of electricity at Glen Canyon Dam. However, given wetter-than-average conditions in the Colorado River Basin and resulting increases in levels at Lake Powell projected to occur this spring, water managers in Utah say the releases achieved their intended purpose and now it is time to stop additional releases and begin putting water back into Flaming Gorge reservoir.

Go deeperIn March 2022, Lake Powell dropped below 3,525 feet in elevation, raising concerns water levels would soon drop to an elevation of 3,490 feet, limiting the release of water from Lake Powell and jeopardizing the ability to generate hydroelectric power. 

In response, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, together with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, created a plan to release 500,000 acre-feet of water from Flaming Gorge to Lake Powell over a twelve-month period.  

The plan was authorized by the Drought Response Operations Agreement, an element of the Drought Contingency Plan passed by Congress in 2019 and signed into law by President Donald Trump, which outlines specific actions to avoid dangerously low water levels at Lake Powell. 

Colorado River Authority of UtahEstablished in 2021, the Colorado River Authority of Utah is a state agency with a mission to protect, use, conserve, and develop Utah’s Colorado River system interests. The Authority collaborates with peer agencies in the six other Colorado River Basin states. Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah make up the Upper Division States, while Arizona, California, and Nevada are the Lower Basin States. Follow the Authority on Twitter @AuthorityUT# # #

ContactMarty Carpenter801.971.3601

NEW: The UCRC and Upper Division States extend SCPP proposal deadline to March 1, 2023

Our Vision

Leverage science, engineering, and measurement and monitoring of diversions and streams to facilitate improved management of Utah’s water usage
Enhance and develop tools to assist long-term understanding of what water is available to develop
Provide leadership and recommendations on how to use Utah’s share more efficiently. Develop management best practices based on data and supply variability
Strengthen relationships among the Upper Basin states to find united technical and legal strategies and negotiate productively for the future
Enter all negotiations of the seven Colorado River Basin states from a best-for-everyone approach while maintaining a strong needs-based voice for Utah’s future
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"The Colorado Authority elevates Utah to a position of strength and next-generation thinking."
Brad Wilson
Speaker of the House of Representatives
"Utah is building on something we can rely on for 100+ years with the Colorado River Authority."
J. Stuart Adams
President of the Utah Senate
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Scientists began modeling hydrology well before computers existed and continue to use best practices, blending experience, common sense, and new technology to forecast water supply conditions. As stress on the water supply increases, the need to protect, preserve and stretch every drop is critical. Conservation is the best and first approach to mitigating water supply shortages. The Colorado River Authority of Utah is committed to stewardship of this finite — and precious — resource through proactive conservation measures. The Authority will produce a roadmap for Utah’s Colorado River Basin, including use of our water supply, role of conservation, and other opportunities and underlying threats.


View our Resource Library for more information on the Colorado River.


“Utah is building on something we can rely on for 100+ years with the Colorado River Authority.”
– President of the Utah Senate, J. Stuart Adams

Why the Colorado River Matters

One of Two Largest Drainage
The Colorado River Basin and its drainage is one of the two largest in the United States, along with the Columbia River Basin in the Pacific Northwest.

40 Million People in the West
The Colorado River provides municipal and industrial water for over 40 million people living in the major Western metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, and San Diego.

1,440 Miles Long
The Colorado River is 1,440 miles long and passes through seven states and Mexico.