Lake Powell drained 50% four years to go!
provided by Living Rivers
ake Powell reservoir is down 86 feet from normal, equating to a reservoir that is half full. The National Park Service, which manages marina facilities at Lake Powell, is busy trying to make adjustments with the hope that they can still accommodate visitors at some locations. Meanwhile, the recently approved $70 million Antelope Point Marina project is in jeopardy of never being used.
Now in the fourth year of an anticipated sustained drought, Lake Powell reservoir will soon be empty. Forecasters have informed the Park Service that the reservoir levels will only be getting lower. The reservoir is dropping faster than it can be replenished. Even when the snow begins to melt this spring, the reservoir is not expected to rise any higher than where it is right now. By July, the reservoir will again start dropping.
The United States Geological Survey 2002 report on Southwest climate change predicted that the Colorado Plateau would be heading into a 30-year period of below average river flows. Previous estimates by forecasters, on the impacts of such a sustained drought, calculated that Lake Powell would be drained within eight years. It's right on schedule. In July 1999, Lake Powell was at 90 percent. As of February 1, 2003, it was at 50 percent.
If the present drought does not relent, Lake Powell will eventually drain to the level of the penstock tubes that spin the generators at Glen Canyon Dam. According to a model that was published in October of 1995 in the Water Resources Bulletin, if a severe and sustained drought similar to the drought of the late 16th century appears, Lake Powell could stay drained for eight years.
We're witnessing the end of Lake Powell right now, says Living Rivers' Conservation Director John Weisheit. This was predicted, and nothing the National Park Service or the marina operators can do will change this.
As the drought persists, it is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to conduct business as normal with the river and reservoir users. This includes the Grand Canyon river runners, who will lose the large Glen Canyon Dam releases they need to run their large motorized boats through the canyon only to arrive at the sediment-choked Lake Mead, adds Weisheit.
Lake Powell is not the only problem. The entire Colorado River storage system has drooped from 92 to 60 percent over the past 40 months. Lack of access to flat water recreation is the least of our worries, concludes Weisheit. The Southwest plumbing system is headed for complete catastrophe, and the Bureau of Reclamation and the seven states that use Colorado River water have no disaster preparedness.
Living Rivers promotes large-scale river restoration through broad-based mobilization. People putting rivers first... reviving their natural habitat and spirit by undoing the extensive damage brought on by dams, diversions, and unmitigated pollution. Whether investigation, litigation or demonstration, Living Rivers is on the front lines articulating the conservation and alternative management strategies necessary to bring rivers back to life. www.livingrivers.org.