For Immediate Release

Pocatello, ID – Today BlueRibbon Coalition announced the release of their plan to Fill Lake Powell.The plan is called Path to 3588, and it discusses the reasonable changes we would need to make in the Colorado River Basin to ensure that the needs of all users of the Colorado River are met. The plan focuses on raising the lake levels to 3588′, because this is the level that allows access to all major recreation amenities. The plan was prepared by John Rickenbach, who is an environmental consultant with over 30 years of experience and a special expertise in Colorado River water issues.

In June 2022, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) called for an immediate 2-4 million acre-foot (maf) reduction in water use among the seven states served by the Colorado River watershed in order to avert catastrophic consequences to water and power supply within the system.  Based on the recent average annual water use among the states, this call to action represents a 16-32% reduction in use from this fragile water supply.[1]  If that sounds like a dramatic call to action, it is. 

In an era of unprecedented drought, old assumptions and protocols for managing water supply in the Colorado River watershed no longer work.  Creative, collaborative solutions are needed to ensure that the major reservoirs in the system can store sufficient water, generate power, and provide economically important recreational opportunities into the future.  As recognized by the BOR, the current rate of water consumption within the system is unsustainable, at least as long as water supplies and snowpack remain generally below historic averages, a trend likely to continue into the future.

The Path to 3588 Plan describes a way forward to meet this historic challenge. It involves a combination of equitably reducing water use among the affected states and Mexico, reimagining the volume and timing of water releases through the major dams, and having enough flexibility built in so that if the reservoirs begin to fill sufficiently, restrictions on water use can ease.

The key principles of this plan are these:

  • Power supply, water supply, and recreational opportunities associated with the major reservoirs in the system must be maintained in a sustainable manner, since those resources are crucial to the health, safety and economy of the West.
  • Given the current drought and extremely low levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead, any action under this plan needs to occur immediately for the plan to be most effective.
  • Any needed water use reductions to implement this plan must be shared fairly and equitably among the states that use the water, as well as Mexico.
  • Because the entire Colorado River water supply and power system does not work unless both Lake Powell and Lake Mead are viable—actions to increase storage in both reservoirs need to be addressed simultaneously.  One reservoir should not be prioritized over the other.
  • The plan must be flexible, and recognize changing conditions over time.  The magnitude and duration of water use reductions are linked to the volume of water in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.  If water volume in the reservoirs rises, water use reductions can ease.

“We hope all recreation users of Lake Powell will review this plan and support our efforts to get it in the hands of policy-makers across the West,” said BlueRibbon Coalition Executive Director, Ben Burr. “This plan provides a serious alternative for the Bureau of Reclamation to consider, and it is a substantive contribution to the challenging discussion water managers across the West are having right now. It’s exciting to see recreation users take the passion for an experience they love and turn it into a substantive contribution to a generational policy challenge.”

The plan can be reviewed below.

The Bureau of Reclamation is also currently accepting public comment for future changes to Colorado River Operations. BlueRibbon Coalition invites the public to share its support for the Path to 3588 plan with the Bureau of Reclamation using the action alert tool below:

[1] The average annual collective water use among the seven states from the Colorado River from 2016-20 was 12.55 million acre feet (maf), which includes the required delivery of 1.5 maf to Mexico.