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Lake Powell likely to drop below critical level in next two weeks

Water managers in the Colorado River Basin have tried to keep Lake Powell from falling under 3,525 feet — it’s likely to happen soon

Chris Outcalt
The Colorado Sun
Lake Powell is seen in a November 2019 aerial photo from the nonprofit EcoFlight.

In the next week or two, the water level at Lake Powell is likely to dip below a key target elevation of 3,525 feet above sea level — a benchmark water managers have long tried to avoid — according to Nick Williams, power manager for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado River Basin.

“I think we’re right at 2 feet above that target elevation,” Williams said. “At the rate we’re dropping we could be there in a week or two.”

In 2019, the Upper Basin and Lower Basin states in the Colorado River Basin signed drought contingency plans to protect the water in the region. Part of the Upper Basin deal included a Drought Response Operations Agreement, or DROA, which aimed to safeguard critical elevations at Lake Powell. DROA defined the 3,525-foot mark as an important “target elevation” for the reservoir. That target provides a 35-foot buffer above the lowest elevation at which Glen Canyon Dam can generate power, 3,490 feet above sea level.



More than 3 million customers use Glen Canyon Dam electricity and the federal government generates roughly $150 million in average annual revenue from selling that hydropower.

Federal water projections for Lake Powell and other reservoirs are “too rosy,” new analysis finds



The water level at Lake Powell has not dipped below 3,525 feet since the reservoir was considered “full” in 1980. Last summer, U.S. water engineers made emergency releases from other reservoirs, including Blue Mesa west of Gunnison, to protect the target elevation at Lake Powell. The releases dropped the water at Blue Mesa by 8 feet, which forced an early end to the boating season and significantly impacted the local economy.

Read more via the Colorado Sun.


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