A new and important study has been released by the Utah State University Futures of the Colorado research team that looks at new ways to manage the Colorado River. We explore innovative new paradigms that could be considered in the upcoming renegotiations of the Interim Shortage Guidelines and Minutes to the 1944 treaty between the United States and Mexico. A key question we address is how might the system be brought to a sustainable balance if the current drought continues as the ‘new normal’ or if climate change aridification is causing a ‘new abnormal’ that water managers must learn to contend with. Solutions are explored such as treating Lake Powell and Lake Mead as a combined unit when determining shortage conditions rather than the administratively fragmented situation that exists today.

The executive summary of the paper can be found here.

The full paper can be accessed here.

End-of-year combined Lake Powell + Lake Mead storage using hydrologic conditions sampled from the Millennium Drought (2000-2018) demonstrates the effects of a range of Upper Basin demand ‘caps’ along with a range of Lower Basin maximum shortages triggered when the combined storage falls below 15 maf. The status quo uses the 2007 UCRC Upper Basin schedule and elevation-based shortage triggers.