Lake Powell could stop producing energy in 2023 as water levels drop


The Glen Canyon Dam is visible, behind which are record water levels at Lake Powell, as the drought continues to worsen on July 2, 2021 near Page, Arizona.

David McNew | Getty Images

Falling water levels at Lake Powell, the huge reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border, could prevent its dam from producing hydroelectric power in 2023, new projections from the US Bureau of Reclamation show , an agency of the Ministry of the Interior.

Amid a historic mega-drought and record high temperatures in the western United States, exacerbated by climate change, Lakes Powell and Mead on the Colorado River are experiencing a record drop in water levels.

The Bureau’s projections show a 3% chance that Lake Powell’s water levels will fall below the minimum level needed for the Glen Canyon Lake Dam to generate hydropower next year. In 2023, the probability of a power outage increases to 34%.

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If water levels drop below 3,490 feet, the minimum power pool, the Glen Canyon Dam, which supplies electricity to about 5.8 million customers in the Western Lands, will no longer be able to produce electricity. ‘electricity. Water levels in Lake Powell are expected to drop to about 3,536 feet by the end of the year, according to bureau data.

“The latest outlook for Lake Powell is troubling,” Wayne Pullan, regional director of the Colorado Upper Basin Office, said in a statement. “This underscores the importance of continuing to work collaboratively with basin states, tribes and other partners to find solutions.”

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Other large bodies of water in the western United States also hit record lows this year and raised concerns about power generation, including Lake Oroville in California. In August, the state shut down the Hyatt Lake Power Plant because water levels fell near the minimum needed to generate electricity.

The federal government also recently declared a water shortage at Lake Mead for the first time due to the drought. The statement triggered water supply cuts that will primarily affect Arizona farmers from next year.

The projections for Lake Powell come as Western lawmakers call on President Joe Biden and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare a catastrophic drought in the West, which would bring relief to states facing water cuts .

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“There is little or no feed available in the West, farmers plan to sell their cattle or land, and many species of wildlife are suffering from forest fires and lack of water.” , wrote Democratic Representatives Joe Neguse of Colorado and Jared Huffman of California. in a letter to the president in August.

In this aerial view, the large whitewashed “tub ring” is seen on the rocky shores of Lake Powell on June 24, 2021 in Page, Arizona.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images