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Colorado River managers announce “extraordinary actions” to prop up Lake Powell

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Glen Canyon Dam

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has announced what its water managers call “urgent, extraordinary actions” to prop up Lake Powell’s plummeting elevation. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The agency will release 500 thousand acre-feet of water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir into Lake Powell this year. It also will hold back 480 thousand acre-feet that normally would be released from Lake Powell to Lake Mead.

Tanya Trujillo of the U.S. Department of the Interior said at a press conference yesterday, "We have never taken this step before in the Colorado River Basin, but the conditions we see today and the potential risks we see on the horizon demand that we take prompt action."

The two steps are expected to raise Lake Powell’s level by sixteen feet. The goal is to preserve hydropower at Glen Canyon Dam, and water supply to the City of Page and the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation.

Trujillo says the seven Colorado River Basin states, tribes, and Mexico agreed to the unprecedented move. She adds, it’s also necessary to conserve and recycle water. "We need to immediately engage in the development of additional conservation measures, if we continue to see the dry hydrology we’ve seen for some time."

The Colorado River’s major reservoirs have dropped to their lowest levels since they were built due to the region’s long-running drought and climate change.

The river was also over-allocated when it was first divided up a century ago.


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.