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Glen Canyon Institute

Dedicated to the restoration of Glen Canyon and a free flowing Colorado River.

Colorado River Supply and Demand Study


In 2009 , the Bureau of Reclamation's Upper Colorado and Lower Colorado Regions submitted a proposal to fund the "Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study" under Reclamation's Basin Study Program. In September 2009, the Study was selected for funding.

The Study, which began in January 2010, is projected to be complete in July 2012. It aims at defining current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin and the adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water for approximately the next 50 years, and hopes to develop and analyze adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances.

The Study will characterize current and future water supply and demand imbalances in the Basin and will assess the risks to Basin resources. Resources include water allocations and deliveries consistent with the apportionments under the Law of the River; hydroelectric power generation; recreation; fish, wildlife, and their habitats (including candidate, threatened, and endangered species); water quality including salinity; flow and water dependent ecological systems; and flood control.

In June 2010, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released an Interim Status Report on the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study. The Basin Study Program is part of the DOI’s WaterSMART Program established through the SECUREWater Act in 2009. The Act provides authority for federal and state water and science agencies to work together with water managers to plan for climate change and other threats to water supplies and take action to “secure water resources for the communities, economies, and the ecosystems they support.”

The Interim Colorado River Basin Study Report has some basic flaws that put into question the usefulness of the final product which is scheduled to be completed in July 2012. The study plan is separated into four technical reports that look at scenario development, an assessment of water supply and water demand, and an interesting explanation of 18 system reliability metrics.


GCI supports a science-based approach to evaluating and managing water in the Colorado River basin, though it has not played out in this way so far. In the past, we have organized and supported many campaigns to fund critical studies of the historical hydrology of the basin. GCI continues to advocate our Fill Mead First proposal, which would move the majority of water storage downstream to Lake Mead. This would likely require long-term re-engineering of Glen Canyon Dam and new ideas and plans surrounding current and future climate change.

In the future of the Colorado River, where demand far outweighs supply, more than just management by traditional assumptions and for traditional user interests has to be at least discussed. While the opportunity to move in the right direction and to open a dialogue for real reform and planning for the future came with the basin study, new ideas have yet to be considered.

To learn more about the study underway, please visit: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy.html

GCI will keep our members informed of future action items or opportunities to comment.

Recently GCI submitted two options aimed to resolve future supply and demand imbalances. Click the following links for our full comments (pdfs).