Chances of Lake Powell losing ability to produce electricity are increasing, report shows

Southern Utah News

The Glen Canyon Dam, near the town of Page, Arizona is pictured on August 25, 2020. – Glen Canyon Dam is a 710-foot (220 m) high dam forms Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the U.S. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

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(ABC4) – Recent projections by the Bureau of Reclamation spell a troubling future for Lake Powell.

A report released on Wednesday shows it’s becoming more likely that water levels could drop below 3,490 feet by 2023, according to the Bureau’s projections. It also now estimates that the lake’s depths have a 34% chance of plunging below the level needed to produce electricity at the Glen Canyon Dam, after believing in June that the probability was 5%.

In essence, things have gotten worse, thanks largely to this summer’s record drought.

The National Integrated Drought Information System reports that the longest drought period in Utah lasted a little over 5 years, from April 3, 2001 to October 3, 2006. They also reported that the most intense drought period occurred the week of January 19, 2021, where almost 70% of Utah land was affected by drought.

Falling water levels are having negative effects on recreation and tourism. ABC4 reported in August that tents at Lake Powell “are tucked along shorelines that haven’t seen water for years. Bright-colored jet skis fly across the water, passing kayakers, water skiers, and fishermen under a blistering desert sun. Closed boat ramps have forced some houseboats off the lake, leaving tourists and businesses scrambling. One ramp is so far above the water, people have to carry kayaks and stand-up paddleboards down a steep cliff face to reach the surface.”

The drought at Lake Powell is also having other unexpected consequences. Also in August, authorities in southern Utah recovered a body from a vehicle near the Hite Marina.

File image

However, those who depend on the lake for electricity and farming are the most affected by the drop in water levels.

Earlier this month, U.S. Officials declared a water shortage in the Colorado River, which raised the possibility of cuts, affecting hydroelectric power and farming in states dependent on Lake Powell.

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