Issues: Climate, Renewable Energy, Watersheds
Airport Origin : Moab, UT
Fly members of the media to provide aerial images of the historic low water levels and changing landscape at Lake Powell.
Lake Powell is located on the Utah-Arizona border. Powell is less than 25% full, the lowest it has been since the Glen Canyon Dam was constructed, filling the lake. On March 15, 2022, Lake Powell fell below the minimum target level of 3,525 feet above sea level.
The minimum target level provides a 35 foot buffer of water before the Glen Canyon hydroelectric power plant can no longer operate, threatening 3 million people's electricity. To address the crisis low water levels, a Drought Response Operations Plan was created and approved April 21st. To keep Glen Canyon Dam operational, 500,000 acre-feet of water was released from Flaming Gorge Reservoir into Lake Powell, raising the water level by about twenty feet. However, the water release from Flaming Gorge has stopped and the levels at Lake Powell are once again declining. The Drought Response Operations Plan also includes possible releases from Blue Mesa and Navajo Reservoirs in 2023.
Lake Powell's summer recreation has been greatly affected. Isolated boats float far below entrance ramps, and almost all boat ramps have been closed. Some new ramps are being constructed closer to the low water levels. Some businesses were unable to open and others were forced to shorten their operating season. However, the resiliency of the region is admirable. As Lake Powell recedes, the area is returning to its former self. Over 30 miles of river in the upper Glen Canyon and about seven rapids have emerged. As motorized watercraft activities are threatened, new recreational and economic opportunities in rafting, hiking, and biking are appearing.
These low water levels are worrying and have caused massive changes to Lake Powell and its values. The emergency water rerouting project provides a short-term solution to keep Glen Canyon Dam from reaching deadpool. The seven basin states and the federal government must act to better manage the Colorado River and enhance water security in the face of increased drought and aridification.