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Wyoming River Water Use Highlights:

Wyoming Colorado River Water Use:

From the 2023 Annual Report – View Full Report Here ⟶

The favorable snowpack and wet spring and summer in Water Year 2023 allowed for a brief reprieve from the poor hydrology suffered in previous years in southwest Wyoming and throughout the basin.

Although one wet year will fall far short of solving the Basin’s problems, it has given Wyoming and the other Basin States some space to focus on longer- term solutions rather than constantly reacting to short-term emergencies.

The wet year also provided relief for critical storage in the Upper Basin. Relief included the early suspension of Drought Response Operations Agreement (DROA) releases to Lake Powell. Flaming Gorge DROA releases ended at 463,000 acre-feet, short of the planned 500,000 acre-feet. Additionally, previous DROA releases from Flaming Gorge, totaling 588,000 acre-feet during 2021 and 2022, are expected to be fully recovered by February 2024. This storage is not only significant for Wyoming’s local economy, but also a critical buffer against dry years in the future.

Even though it was a wet year, Wyoming and its water users continued to pursue water conservation efforts. Wyoming and the other Upper Division States implemented the System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP). Also active from 2015 to 2018 in the Upper Basin, SCPP is a voluntary, temporary and compensated program that incentivizes water conservation activities. In 2023, there were 21 such projects in Wyoming – 19 irrigation, one municipal, and one industrial. Those projects conserved an estimated 16,000 acre-feet of water. Wyoming also supported continuation of the program in 2024 and will focus on projects that support water conservation innovation and local drought resiliency.

Additionally, Wyoming and its water users continue to support and pursue water-use studies and improved measurement tools, as well as long term-water conservation improvements. Wyoming also continues to expand its knowledge of its water use through planned water modeling enhancements. To advance those modeling efforts, Wyoming’s Interstate Streams Division added Suman Chitrakar (Chee-tra-car) to its team and looks forward to the benefits of his impressive skills and background.

Wyoming’s legislature also continued to focus on the Colorado River. It passed an Act authorizing the formation and funding of the “Wyoming Colorado River Advisory Committee.” The Committee consists of nine members appointed by the Governor who represent various water-use sectors and two legislators who represent Wyoming’s House of Representatives and Senate. Many of the members previously served on Governor Gordon’s Colorado River Working Group and are knowledgeable about current Colorado River issues. Wyoming expects that the Committee will be integral to its decision making process as it navigates the increasingly complex and urgent discussions surrounding the Colorado River Basin.

During 2020, Wyoming has been actively involvedin an outreach effort with the water users on the feasibility of demand management in Wyoming. As a prelude to the demand management discussion, the users expressed a need for clarity on potential curtailment parameters. Most recently, four focus groups were convened to explore the details of several topics related to potential curtailment and demand management. The draft report is expected to be prepared by the end of 2020; it will summarize all the discussions to date as well as develop recommendations.

In addition to the above-described in-state effort, Wyoming continues to work with the other three Upper Basin States on the demand management feasibility assessments outlined in the Drought Contingency Plan documents. The four states, along with staff from the Upper Colorado River Commission, have contracted with several entities to help in the technical, legal, and economic analyses related to demand management.

The state, in partnership with the water users, continues to work on several new and existing infrastructure projects designed to put additional water to beneficial use in Wyoming. These efforts include increasing storage at six existing facilities and the construction of one new dam/reservoir. In addition, Wyoming remains committed to its ongoing weather modification program.

Finally, as reported last year, both the Director of the Wyoming Water Development Office and the Wyoming State Engineer retired in 2019. These positions were filled by Governor Gordon in late 2019. Brandon Gebhart, P.E. was appointed to head the Water Development Office. Prior to his appointment, Gebhart had spent more than 20 years in consulting engineering working in the field of water resources, including the planning, design, and construction management on a variety of water development projects in Wyoming. Greg Lanning, P.E. began his duties as Wyoming’s 16th State Engineer in November 2019. Lanning previously served as Deputy State Engineer from 2012 to 2014. His broad background in civil engineering and water resource management includes time spent as Public Works Director for communities both in Wyoming and in neighboring states.