The Future of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon
Dr. Jack Schmidt will speak about the fate of the Colorado River ecosystem in Grand Canyon, primarily determined by large-scale, basin-wide decisions about how to allocate increasingly scarce water supplies. Decisions about how to distribute long-term water storage in Lakes Mead and Powell and how much water to deliver from the Upper Basin to the Lower Basin each year are the primary drivers of ecosystem conditions in Grand Canyon. The existence of Lake Powell and the existence of its present array of water release structures perpetuates the continuing fine sediment deficit in Grand Canyon and continues to create a highly perturbed temperature regime. Reoperation of Glen Canyon Dam to moderate the range of load-following, modified hydropeaking releases can only accomplish a small degree of ecosystem improvement in Grand Canyon. New negotiations among the federal government, state governments, and Mexico about how to respond to impending decreases in watershed runoff provide an opportunity to reconsider the fundamental agreements and infrastructure that now control the Colorado River.
Jack Schmidt is Professor of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University where he has been on the faculty since 1991. He is a recognized expert on the Colorado River and has published widely on the historical transformation of the river and its ecosystem, geomorphic processes of the Colorado River and other southwestern rivers, strategies to restore aspects of the pre-dam ecosystem, and management strategies for the river’s large dams, including the use of controlled floods as a management tool in Grand Canyon.