August 05, 2014

Before #drought brings "dead pool," "dead power pool" could hit Powell and Mead

People who live in or near the Colorado River drainage (the real one, not the Texas one) know what the phrase "dead pool" means when applied to either Lake Mead or Lake Powell. It means that said damned lake has dropped so low that water can't flow through even the lowest outlet and we have a man-made Great Salt Lake.

Dead pool has been a worry for a few years among the knowledgeable, between persistent drought in the area — but not  unhistorical drought, as archaelogists and paleometeorologists know — and the effects of climate change.

But now, as High Country News notes, there's the worry of dead power pool, too.

That's where water levels in the lakes, even if not at dead pool yet, drop too low to generate significant hydroelectric power. Of course, the Colorado hits its lowest in August, right when sweltering Phoenix and Las Vegas are begging for kilowatts to juice up air conditioners.

A serious concern? Er, yes:
Here’s a sure sign that your region’s in drought: you stop paying your utility for the privilege of using water, and the utility starts paying you not to use water instead.

Outlandish as it sounds, that’s what four major Western utilities and the federal government are planning to do next year through the $11 million Colorado River Conservation Partnership. Under the agreement, finalized late last week between the Department of Interior and the utilities Denver Water, the Central Arizona Project, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, farmers, cities and industries will get paid to implement two-year, voluntary conservation projects that put water back into the Colorado River. The goal is to demonstrate that so-called “demand management” can prevent water levels in lakes Powell and Mead from dropping too low for their dams to generate electricity.
It's that serious.

So serious that requesting big farmers to fallow land on a rotating basis is part of the discussion.

Which is a discussion no farmer or rancher wants:
“Fallowing is really a blunt force tool that would harm agriculture,” said Terry Frankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “We want to try to explore other ways of reducing demand,” like switching to less water intensive crops, watering less and accepting reduced yields, or water banking—foregoing diversions when you don’t need them in exchange for the right to use more later.
Well, you'd better figure it out soon, and start telling any of your members who are climate change denialists to get real. As it is, you and others are draining groundwater in the basin even faster than river reservoirs.

And, on Lake Powell, as a graphic at HCN shows, dead power pool will happen 1,200 feet above dead pool.

And, unless water usage is cut more, or else there's a massively snowy winter this year into next, dead power pool could happen as early as next year.

Have fun, climate change denialists in Arizona. If dead power pool actually happens in the next year or two, your summer electric rates in Phoenix will surely about triple, off the top of my head.

No comments: