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The seven states that share the Colorado River are considering a plan to protect Lake Powell by cutting the amount of water released downstream to Lake Mead, according to a Nevada water official.
Pat Mulroy said that the plan would be carried out if drought persists through next winter. Under the plan, the amount of water released from Lake Powell, on the Utah-Arizona border, would be reduced to 7.8 million acre-feet from 8.23 million acre-feet.
The reduction could help keep Lake Powell from shrinking further, which would jeopardize power generation at Glen Canyon Dam. However, it could also accelerate a drop in the water level downstream at Lake Mead the primary water supply for Las Vegas, said Ms. Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
It might also prevent a "call on the river," requiring water users in the drought-stricken upper basin to give up more water to meet the 8.23 million acre-foot requirement set by existing water policy.
Mulroy told The Las Vegas Review-Journal the plan was floated by representatives from the upper Colorado River Basin states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.
After five years of below-normal snowfall along the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, Lake Powell is at 40 percent of capacity and power generation at Glen Canyon Dam is down 40 percent. Lake Mead is at 54 percent of capacity.
Don Oster, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, said reducing the flow from Powell is a possible option. Oster said the upper basin's main proposal involved reviewing the operating plan for the river every six months, instead of once a year during the drought.