Lake Powell is officially the lowest it has ever been since being filled in the 1960s — again

Feb 19, 2023, 1:01 PM

Lake Powell's Wahweap Marina is pictured in Wahweap, Ariz., on March 28, 2021. U.S. (Kristin Murphy...

Lake Powell's Wahweap Marina is pictured in Wahweap, Ariz., on March 28, 2021. U.S. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

PAGE, Ariz. — Lake Powell is once again the lowest it has ever been since it was first filled six decades ago.

The reservoir, located by the Utah-Arizona border, dropped to 3,521.95 feet elevation on Friday, surpassing the previous record low of 3,522.24 feet set in April 2022, said Becki Bryant, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. She added that the lake is expected to continue to drop until the snowpack runoff begins in the spring.

Lake Powell began filling in the 1960s as crews completed the Glen Canyon Dam, reaching a “full pool” level of 3,700 feet elevation in 1980. The record-low conditions last year allowed for some of the original construction sites to resurface for the first time since the reservoir was just 3 years old.

The Utah Department of Water Resources lists Lake Powell as being at 22% capacity — 4 percentage points lower than it was at this time last year. The reservoir’s average for mid-February is closer to 55% of capacity.

The dubious record was expected, as the nation’s second-largest reservoir continues to struggle from the effects of drought and overconsumption. It’s why the bureau and Page, Arizona, officials recently completed a project to install a second emergency water intake system at the Glen Canyon Dam. The project allows for the community to receive water up to 3,362 feet elevation, 8 feet below the point where the reservoir is considered a “dead pool.”

The Bureau of Reclamation and several Western states, including Utah, are still sifting through ways to slow down the impacts of the drought on the Colorado River. The federal agency said in October that it would consider reducing downstream releases from Lake Powell.

The Department of Interior also announced Monday that $125 million of $728 million set aside for drought and climate resiliency projects will go toward a program that compensates people in Utah — and other Upper Colorado River Basin states — who voluntarily reduce their Colorado River consumptive water use.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox also said Thursday that he’s hopeful California will join Utah and five other states in an agreement to reduce water from the river. The agreement would reduce about 2 million acre-feet in the Lower Colorado River Basin in addition to smaller reductions in the Upper Basin, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service reported last week that the Bullfrog North and Stateline Auxiliary ramps are still open despite the record-low water levels. The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area brought in a little more than 2.8 million recreation visits in 2022.

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Lake Powell is officially the lowest it has ever been since being filled in the 1960s — again