The reservoir release also could have implications for a potential demand-management program, the feasibility of which the state is currently investigating.
The issue is twofold: With climate change, there is not enough water for the upper basin to develop new projects without the risk of a compact call; and if the past three decades are any indication, the upper basin is not on track to use more water in the future anyway.
But even with shepherding, it’s unlikely the entire 1,800 acre-feet will make it to the state line because of this year’s dry conditions.
Almost all of the water exported from the Western Slope to the Front Range is done with post-compact water rights.
If the severe drought persists, and Lake Powell dries up, some say Colorado will have to curtail to prevent a compact call.
With Lake Powell half full and a dry year extending a prolonged drought, water managers and irrigators are studying how to keep the big reservoir operational and avoid a compact call.