Projections for Lake Powell, Lake Mead ‘troubling’; Impact could be more severe in 2022
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Projections to estimate Lake Mead and Lake Powell water levels suggest that 2022 could be the year reality sets in and a water shortage is beginning to change the daily lives of millions in the American Southwest much more
Lake Powell is of particular concern as there is a possibility that falling water levels could reduce electricity production at Glen Canyon Dam.
According to the Bureau of Reclamation models, there is a 25-35% chance that this will happen.
“The recent outlook for Lake Powell is worrying,” said Wayne Pullan, Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Basin regional director. “This underscores the importance of continuing to work on solutions with the basin states, tribes and other partners.”
A few years later, a prolonged drought could cause serious problems at Lake Mead through 2025.
Officials say there is a 66% chance that Lake Mead could plunge to 1,025 feet in 2025 – 42 feet lower than it is today. This is the level at which the third “inlet straw” draws water from Lake Mead for the Las Vegas Valley.
The models show a 22% chance it will sink to 1,000 feet.
Lake levels are expressed in terms of height. A level of 1,000 feet means the surface of the water is 1,000 feet above sea level.
The water stored in the Lower Colorado River Basin is now 39% of its capacity, up from 49% a year ago.
Officials have already taken steps to drain water from dams upriver from Lake Powell, including Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa and Navajo.
“This five-year probability table highlights the need for additional action beyond the 2007 guidelines and the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan to reinforce our efforts to protect Lake Mead, Lake Powell and the Colorado River systems as a whole,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.