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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Desert Power

Lake Powell is draining under a changing climate and increased water demand.

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Saturday, May 11, 2013/Categories: photography, sustainability, environment

A decade of drought in the Rocky Mountains has been tough on Lake Powell and the entire water storage network sustaining much of the Southwestern USA. The lake was created in 1963 when Glen Canyon on the Colorado River was dammed.

Lake Powell was always a controversial project and water from its tributaries has dwindled over the years as predicted by critics. The rate of inflowing water resources between 2000 and 2012 has been at its lowest period since the resevoir was created. The lake continues declining even as increased rainfall and snowpack has occurred in some years. The level is likely to accelerate as demand for water continues to grow.

                  Lake Powell Water Inflow History, 1980-2010  (credit: NASA)

A new satellite image shows the level of change in Lake Powell as water levels have declined. Hite Marina had been the access point for boaters wanting to scurry around the reservoir's placid waters. It is now silted-up as the Colorado River begins reclaiming the once drowned canyons.

Lake Powell and Hite Marina (NASA)

Some good Colorado snowstorms in 2013 offered a bit of respite as two river basins feeding Lake Powell received higher levels of precipitation than normal. The extra water provided relief for farmers but was still too meager to significantly impact the reservoir.

A hydrologist commented: “Slight improvement in the Colorado basin water supply is like expecting a road-killed jackrabbit to feed a whole pack of hungry coyotes. It’s not nearly enough to go around.”


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