Drought threatens electricity supply in the southwest | Community

TUCSON (KVOA) – Arizona’s two-decade drought is threatening water and power supplies in the Southwest.

“So it’s a big deal and as an irrigation district, all of our electricity comes from the Hoover Dam and obviously we watch the water level there very closely,” said Doug Greenland, district general manager. irrigation system of Cortaro Marana (CMID).

The district supplies water to the communities of Marana, Avra ​​Valley and Cortaro, irrigating over 10,000 acres of farmland.

“People may not realize that we’re generating a lot of cheap hydroelectric power from these dams on these two lakes,” said Lea Marquez Peterson, chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission.

According to the Bureau of Reclamation, Lake Mead can produce 2,080 megawatts of hydropower, enough for 1.3 million Americans a year.

The bureau said 950 feet is the lowest water elevation at which the lake can generate electricity.

It is currently at 1040 feet.

Lake Powell is in worse shape.

The Glenn Canyon Dam generates electricity for millions of homes in seven states. If the water level drops another 32 feet, the dam will not be able to generate electricity.

In Arizona, Marquez Peterson said utilities and rural electric cooperatives tend to use power from hydroelectric dams. “Areas served by cooperatives may have challenges as well as our public supply areas where they may have to purchase power if there is a market shortfall which could be a premium, could be more dear.”

Arizona is credited with nearly 19% of the energy generated at the Hoover Dam. And a 2015 study shows that customers would see a nominal increase in their power bills if the Glen Canyon Dam stopped generating power, but there is a ripple effect.

“Those in rural communities, retirees who are on a fixed income, agricultural users and maybe the price of food, small businesses who depend on clean energy, so there are a lot of things that can be affected, we just have to be as prepared as we can,” said Marquez Peterson.

The Arizona Corporation Commission has launched a water task force to monitor the drought and its many implications.

Alan A. Seibert