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Science and Innovations

Lake Powell Headed For Record Low

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Lake Powell on the Colorado River is expected to drop to a record-breaking new low in the next day or two. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, the reservoir will reach its lowest elevation since it was first filled.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has begun emergency releases of water from three upstream dams to prop up Lake Powell’s level. Spokesperson Becki Bryant says the releases will continue through the end of the year and are expected to raise the reservoir by about three feet. She says, "It really is a drop in the bucket of what Lake Powell needs… If we’re lucky Mother Nature will be very generous to us over the winter, but we’re not counting on that."

The river’s downward trend is forecast to continue, raising concerns about water supply for western states and hydropower production at Glen Canyon Dam. According to the National Park Service recreation is also affected. Several boat ramps are restricted to small watercraft like kayaks and paddleboards. A few are still accessible to motorboats thanks to temporary ramp extensions.

Lake Mead also dropped to a new record low last month. Both reservoirs are about two-thirds empty.

Get an update on Lake Powell’s level and information about boat ramps here.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated that the reservoirs were both two-thirds full. They are two-thirds empty.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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