For those planning to spring break at Lake Powell, there may be some disappointment. Multiple Lake Powell launch ramps and marinas are closed due to low water conditions.
For the first time in more than 50 years ago, Lake Powell, which the second-largest reservoir in the country, is anticipated to dip past a critical threshold. The low water level is threat to not only water supplies, but also could possibly endanger a main source of hydropower generation to be forced to shut down.
The US Bureau of Reclamation is estimating water levels in Lake Powell to reach an elevation of 3,525 feet above sea level between the timeframe of March 10 and 16.
As of Thursday, Lake Powell had fallen to 3,526 feet in elevation. That water level is just 24% of capacity and less than two feet away from a critical level. Drought plans define the 3,525-foot mark as the “target elevation” for the reservoir, which is considered a dire situation.
Lake Powell’s incredibly low water level threatens the Glen Canyon Dam’s capacity to produce hydropower, which provides power for many states including Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Nebraska.
Both Lake Powell and Lake Mead have drained at an shocking rate over the last year. In August, the first time, the federal government actually declared a water shortage on the Colorado River after Lake Mead’s water level plunged to unprecedented lows levels. That plunge generated mandatory water consumption cuts for states in the Southwest in January.
The decreasing supply in the two reservoirs is significant as they are fed by the Colorado River. This water flowing river system supplies more than 40 million people across seven Western states, including Mexico. These reservoirs deliver an essential supply of drinking water and irrigation, including farms, ranches, and native communities.
The Bureau of Reclamation are continuing to work on a Drought Response Operations Plan, which they expect to complete this April. It is estimated that the American West is going to be in a drought through the remaining year. To recover, the area will need several seasons of high precipitation.