Colorado River Dams Could Stop Producing Hydropower

Officials are releasing water from upstream reservoirs as water levels in the river's major reservoirs fall to historic lows.

July 22, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Glen Canyon Dam

NaughtyNut / Shutterstock

As a historic drought continues into its third decade, the hydroelectric dams along the Colorado River will start seeing less electricity production, potentially causing electricity costs to rise across the West, writes Luke Runyon. "Lake Powell is the nation’s second largest reservoir," producing power for 5 million people. "Later in July it’s projected to hit its lowest point since it first filled in the 1960s, set to drop below its previous low set in 2005." If water levels continue to drop, "[h]ydropower production might become unfeasible at elevations above 3,490 feet due to turbine cavitation, when small air bubbles form and cause damage to the machine’s inner workings."

"The declining water levels have sent those who market and distribute Colorado River basin hydropower to their customers to figure out how to make up the energy deficit." Clayton Palmer with the Western Area Power Administration, which distributes power produced at Glen Canyon Dam, "said this year his agency will have to purchase millions of dollars in extra electrical power on the open market to fulfill their contracts."

On July 19, "[f]ederal officials laid out details of how reservoirs upstream of Lake Powell will release water in an attempt to keep producing hydropower," but the planned releases from upstream reservoirs amount to a short-term fix. "There comes a point where we can't engineer our way out of this," said Christopher Cutler, water and power services manager for the Bureau of Reclamation. "If the basin’s dry conditions continue into 2022, the situation could become more dire."

Tuesday, July 13, 2021 in KUNC


The Surprising Oil Tax in the Inflation Reduction Act

President Biden has made reducing gas prices paramount in his administration, so it was likely a surprise to hear a Republican senator last Sunday warn TV viewers that a revived and increased oil fee in the climate bill will increase their gas costs.

August 15, 2022 - Bloomberg News

People gather on a street with no cars during the L.E.A.F. Festival of Flowers in the Meatpacking District of New York City.

The Tide Has Turned Against Open Streets

Once a promising development for advocates pushing for a less car-centric future in cities, the open streets movement has ceded significant ground to cars since the height of the pandemic.

August 14, 2022 - The New York Times

Aerial view of downtown San Antonio with Tower Life Building in foreground

San Antonio Office Tower To Become Residential

With the building more than half vacant, the new owners of the Tower Life Building plan to convert the historic tower into residences that could include affordable housing.

August 15, 2022 - San Antonio Report

Colorado River

Department of the Interior Forced to Intervene on the Colorado River

More questions than answers on the Colorado River this week as the federal government failed to deliver on threats to force Southwest states to cut back on water use.

August 19 - High Country News

For Rent

Explaining Rent Inflation

The delayed effects of changes in rent costs make rent inflation a difficult figure to pin down.

August 19 - The Atlantic

Two cyclists on a paved bike trail through short grass with Dallas buildings in background

Dallas Names 66-Mile Bike and Walking Trail

When complete, the newly named DFW Discovery Trail will incorporate 50 miles of existing trails into a regional ‘super highway.’

August 19 - The Dallas Morning News

Transportation Planner, Planning Division

San Francisco County Transportation Authority

Product Manager

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Assistant or Associate Professor of Urban Design

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.