The Colorado Drought and Hydropower Production

By Kris Polly

Everyone knows that drought means less water, but it may not be as immediately obvious that it can also mean less power. In the Colorado basin, however, that is becoming more and more apparent. In our dual cover stories this month, we speak with Nicholas Williams, the Bureau of Reclamation’s power office manager for the Upper Colorado Basin Region, and David Arend, Reclamation’s new deputy regional director for the Lower Colorado Basin Region, about how drought is affecting Reclamation’s hydroelectric power generation in both halves of the basin. 

Next, we speak with Deenise Becenti, the government and public affairs manager for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which sources more than half its power from renewable sources, including hydropower and solar power. Ms. Becenti tells us about how through the Light Up Navajo program, volunteer lineworkers from around the nation are helping connect thousands of previously unconnected homes in the Navajo Nation to the grid. 

Jaclyn Gnusti, the senior managing engineer at environmental science and engineering consulting firm Anchor QEA, tells us about the many services the firm provides to address the problem of sedimentation in lakes and reservoirs and next to dams. 

Brad Cavallo of scientific consulting firm Cramer Fish Sciences tells us about his involvement in recent discussions of dams’ effects on water temperature and fish habitat and emphasizes the importance of taking a scientifically rigorous approach toward such questions. 

Tom Osborn, an energy engineer at the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA), tells us about the agency’s efforts to improve the energy efficiency both of BPA customers, including irrigators, and of power stations and substations themselves. 

Krah USA, based in Prineville, Oregon, uses German-designed technology to make exceptionally large and durable high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, pipe. We speak with co-CEOs Midge Graybeal and Mark Theetge and consultant Marc Thalacker, the manager of the Three Sisters Irrigation District in Oregon, about Krah USA’s offerings for the hydro market. 

Through efforts to save water, improve the performance of hydroelectric facilities, and boost energy efficiency, hydropower professionals are facing up to the challenges created by the Colorado basin drought. This challenge will continue to be highly relevant in coming years, as will their efforts to address it. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at