NewsUtah Drought


Low water levels at Lake Powell cause concern for more than boaters

Posted at 5:59 PM, Apr 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-01 20:06:47-04

PAGE, Arizona — Lake Powell recently hit a historic low: 3,525 feet above sea level.

“Some people call this the eighth wonder of the world, and that's probably what it is," said Kenneth Runnels, the general manager of Antelope Marina.

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Runnels has been boating on Lake Powell since the early 1990s. He says it’s not the same lake as it once was.

“It's different. It looks different," he said. "People that come here... they'll comment how the water level's different and how the lake looks different [from] the way it used to be. But the reality is, this is what we've got today.”

That reality is a cause of concern for the Bureau of Reclamation.

READ: River levels across Utah hit record lows

“The lower the lake level, there's less energy going down there, so ... we can't make as much energy as we can when the lake's deeper," said Gus Levy, the manager of the Bureau of Reclamation's Glen Canyon Field Division.

The Bureau of Reclamation has a “minimum power pull” elevation the water needs to be at so the dam can produce hydropower.

Water needs to be at at least 3,490 feet to reach the top of the pipes.

Right now, the water is at 3,523 feet — which levy says is dangerously low.

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He says the way we’ve been using this precious water resource is not sustainable.

“I think conservation has got to be in mind, and the people in charge that have influence need to come up with plans to use the water responsibly," Levy said.

Data from the Lake Powell water database shows that the water levels were more than 100 feet higher 10 years ago than they are today.

Even within the last year, water levels have dropped 45 feet.

“The biggest thing you notice when you're boating is scenery that you're used to seeing that was underwater is now above water," Runnels said. "And you've just got to watch for hazards in the lake that previously were underwater that haven't been marked yet this year.”

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The water is still at least 350 feet deep in most of the main channel — which Runnels says is plenty deep for houseboats and anyone who wants to get out and enjoy the lake.