Letter: Fill Lake Mead first: Use as primary water storage

Published: Sunday, Feb. 3 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Amy Joi O'Donoghue hits the nail on the head with her opening statement ("Colorado River Basin Study," Jan. 27). The key step for ensuring future water for the Colorado River Basin is "a hard emphasis on conservation"; however, in the recently released Colorado River Supply and Demand Study, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) doesn't give serious consideration to a very promising conservation strategy: Fill Mead First.

Glen Canyon Institute submitted Fill Mead First as an option to be considered. GCI estimates that at least 300,000 acre feet of water could be saved every year simply by using Lake Mead as the primary water storage facility for the upper and lower Colorado River Basins. This is the same amount of water that Nevada is allotted from the Colorado River each year. This could address at least 10 percent of the projected water deficit for 2060.

Operationally, this would cost little and save enough water for more than a million people yearly. Unfortunately, the study rejected this type of system reoperation as a means of meeting water demand. The primary reason that filling Lake Mead first saves so much water is that Mead loses substantially less water to ground seepage than Lake Powell does. The BOR, however, doesn't acknowledge the problem of bank seepage in Lake Powell. As a result, it ignores this as a possibility for significant water savings.

The Bureau of Reclamation needs to seriously consider the full range of conservation options. Personal conservation alone — while important ?— will not be enough to make a significant difference for the Colorado River Basin.

Mike Sargetakis, Glen Canyon Institute

Salt Lake City

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