The Western Area Power Administration, which includes the Upper Colorado River Basin, along with other federal power agencies, will spend millions of dollars this year purchasing non-water-generated electricity in order to conserve water in the current drought, the White House said this week.

WAPA expects to spend an extra $15 million to $20 million to buy non-hydro power, a cost that will eventually be passed on to power users.Marlene Moody, WAPA deputy area manager in Salt Lake City, said WAPA spent just over $201 million in 1987 buying non-hydro power.

"We buy non-federal power regularly. What is unusual this year for the CRSP (Colorado River Storage Project) is that we have only 61 percent of normal inflow, so there's less hydro available than usual." WAPA typically buys non-federal power in low water years to meet long-term power sales commitments, Moody said.

The Bonneville Power Administration, which serves the Northwest, including a portion of Utah, has already spent $20 million to buy power from British Columbia Hydro Power, in Canada. Bonneville and the Southeastern Power Administration have cut off non-firm power customers to minimize reservoir depletion. There was no indication whether WAPA would drop non-firm power sales. "Non-firm" power contracts are signed with large industrial customers who agree to be cut off if shortages occur in exchange for lower electric rates.

The federal government announced the power purchases and cutbacks as part of its response to the drought affecting the West and Midwest this summer. In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation has begun a public-relations effort to promote water conservation and discussions with state and local water agencies to deal with shortages.

The bureau has set up drought-coordination teams to transfer water to meet shortages, particularly in Idaho, and to adjust operating plans for many reclamation projects to make maximum use of water resources.

Wayne Cook, the bureau's drought coordinator in Utah, said Utah and Colorado are in better shape than some of the rest of the 17 Western states the bureau operates in. "Unless it's a very isolated case, we are really in pretty good shape for the rest of the year. We will be in very serious shape if we have a very dry winter because we will have used our long-term storage."

The White House has set up a Drought Policy Committee due to a report Friday to President Reagan on other steps the U.S. can take to combat the dry weather. The Department of Agriculture as of June 23 opened Conservation Reserve acreage to haying and grazing in 1,390 counties in 30 states and approved emergency feed programs in 169 counties in 13 states.