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In-Depth: New projections show Lake Powell levels could threaten power generation in 2022

Posted at 6:24 PM, Sep 24, 2021

LAKE POWELL, Utah — Lake Powell water levels continue to drop, and a new report released by the Bureau of Reclamation projects the possibility America’s second-biggest dam could be too low to produce electricity by July 2022.

Glen Canyon Dam can generate 5 billion kilowatt-hours per year at full capacity, enough to run about 470,000 average American homes. But if it sinks below 3,490 feet, that generation goes away.

The projections show a 25 to 35 percent chance that will happen, but the reservoir has a 90 percent chance of sinking below the threshold the Bureau likes to maintain to be safe. They mark that at 3,525 feet.

Lake Powell was at 3,546 feet above sea level on September 23. In July, the Bureau started releasing water from large reservoirs upstream, including Flaming Gorge and Navajo, in order to slow the losses in Powell.

The new long-term projections don’t show the lake sinking below the level known as "Dead Storage Pool," or simply "Dead Pool," which is 3,370 feet. At that point, the mechanisms allowing for the control of streamflow are no longer operative, meaning the reservoir ceases to serve its purpose for water storage and distribution.