Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Group Dedicated to Restoring Glen Canyon Wants More Water in Lake Mead and Less in Lake Powell

This article was sent to me in an email earlier this week.  As you might have guessed from the headline, I think their plan is a little self-serving.  That's not to say it is clearly without merit.  I don't have access to the study their conclusion is based on, but I would be very interested to read it.

I agree that seepage into the Navajo sandstone that borders the lake could soak up a significant amount of water stored there, but wouldn't much of what enters the rock during high water periods later exit the rock when the water is low?  Admittedly, some of that water would be bound up in the rock matrix over time, but once that matrix porosity has been filled it can't be refilled again.  So in some sense, the damage has been done and won't be undone by changing the management strategy of the reservoir.  But I would like to see the data and calculations or models that were employed to get a better sense of how they reached their conclusions.


Michael Kellett said...

Hi Chris,

Thank you for keeping an open mind, despite your understandable skepticism. Sometimes, what has been accepted as conventional wisdom for decades is proven to be wrong. Glen Canyon Institute believes there is strong evidence that this is the case in terms of water losses from Lake Powell.

Of course GCI has an interest in showing that Lake Powell is not a good place to store water. But we have always based our arguments on honest science. That is what we were seeking with this latest study.

GCI commissioned the study, but we chose a well-published, reputable PhD hydrologist, Thomas Myers, to conduct it. We asked him to do an objective, scientifically defensible analysis that could meet the standards of a quality professional journal.

Dr. Myers submitted his paper to the Journal of the American Water Resources Association, published by a non-profit professional association founded in 1964. This is a peer-reviewed journal that is committed to good science, not advocacy. After a careful review, they accepted Dr. Myers' paper for publication.

In his paper, Dr. Myers provides extensive data to support his conclusions. He questions the quality of the data used by the Bureau of Reclamation for its evaporation and seepage estimates. He is specific in his study regarding why he is questioning these data, and offers documentation to support his concerns.

If there is scientific evidence that Dr; Myers' data or conclusions are erroneous, there is certainly ample opportunity to present that information. As a respected scientific journal, JAWRA welcomes that kind of dialog.

GCI submitted our Fill Mead First proposal to the Bureau of Reclamation for consideration in the Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study. We urged them to do a careful analysis of our proposal and either confirm or challenge Dr. Myers' findings. Thus far, the agency has declined.

We are still hoping the BOR will do a thorough analysis of the Fill Mead First proposal. It is in everyone's interest to know the facts and to understand exactly what our options are. In this era when the Colorado River Basin faces the prospect of water shortages, any plan that offers the possibility of saving significant amounts of water deserves serious consideration.

If you want to read Dr. Myers' original paper, it is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jawr.12081/abstract

More information regarding the Fill Mead First proposal is available at www.glencanyon.org/glen_canyon/fill-mead-first


Chris Brooks said...

Michael - thank you for the insightful comment. I don't get as many substantive comments like yours as I wish I did. First, I have tried to access Dr. Meyer's paper but I don't have institutional access to the Wiley on-line library currently. But I'm going to work on getting a copy of it because I'm very interested in his methodology. I would much rather criticize the study on valid scientific grounds (if proper) than merely paint with a broad brush. What I will say at this point is that I hope BOR does pursue a more rigorous assessment of the approach GCI proposes. But I fear that the economic costs to overall river management (power, water, recreation) are unlikely to come out in favor of reducing storage in Powell. That is to say the cost per acre-foot of water saved may not justify the change. But, again, I welcome the dialogue and hope this idea is properly vetted.

Ina said...